The reaction to Jaguar Land Rover’s news that it is now making huge profits has been greeted with universal approval from the industry and enthusiasts. That’s only right and proper because, if the company is doing well and earning billions, then the effects are widespread – not just across the British car and component industry, but also for the country’s economy for a whole.
The news comes at what we might describe as interesting times for parent company Tata. According to the BBC, Tata has suffered from falling profits on the back of a car market that’s stagnating. Worse than that, the Indian car market is genuinely struggling, with deliveries of cars, trucks and buses falling by 36% in the last three months.
In this backdrop, it’s good that Jaguar Land Rover continues to perform so strongly, as Tata Motors will be struggling in the face of its home market difficulties. To put this contrast into perspective, net sales of Tata cars were up 16% to 647.16bn rupees, but the company suffered a foreign exchange loss of 3.55bn rupees.
The good news is that Jaguar Land Rover is clearly weathering its owner’s own problems with considerable style. However, with a range that’s so focused at the premium end of the market, it can’t afford to be too complacent. Although the economy in China or Russia – where JLR is booming – is strong now, if it were to suffer from an Indian-style bump, then that would clearly have serious repercussions.
That’s why the XE is so important for the company. With it comes volume – perhaps JLR will push towards a million cars a year once the family of cars that is spun out of the XE comes on stream – and, with volume, comes a fair degree of future-proofing because, if the worst came to the worst, JLR would be in a much better position to stand on its own two feet with a strong Jaguar selling cars in the huge Audi A4/BMW 3-Series/Mercedes-Benz C-Class market.
That’s a basic industrial truism, of course – it’s easier for a car company to survive the larger it is – and, to continue current impressive growth, JLR really will need to build a world-beating car. The good news is that the aluminium expertise is there, so we know the underpinnings will be light and efficient. We also know that it’s going to handle and ride as well – if not better – than any of its rivals. Big brother, the Jaguar XF might be getting on these days, but dynamically, it more than cuts the mustard.
The only unknown in the mix is the new Ingenium range of engines, which being new from the sump nut up, is going to be cutting edge. Let’s hope the longevity is there as well as the impressive numbers. However, if JLR gets this element right, future success will surely follow – and without the need to buy in any further technology from former parent company, Ford.
As for looking right – I think that’s a given but we will know for certain at the Paris Motor Show this autumn.
So, will Jaguar be able to pull it off with the XE? It’s an interesting question that I’m aching to simply say ‘yes’ to. The engineering and design talent that’s gone into it is unimpeachable, and it’s definitely the right product for now… even if we need it right now. My usual sources are giving nothing away about the new car – instead, they just nod knowingly and say, ‘you wait and see’.
That’s all good, then – but the standard of the opposition is frighteningly high – the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class have all been honed to perfection over a very long time. So, be under no illusion – the scale of the task that’s facing Jaguar is monumental – but I, for one, think that they’re going to pull it off…