Jaguar revs up for better recall

With sleek sedans and tough off-roaders, Tata Motors-owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) was among the last international luxury car brands to hop on the gravy train and chug into India.

The German trio of BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, which controls about 80 per cent of the domestic luxury car market, has already made India its home, flooding the market with almost everything sold by it internationally.

However, the late entry of JLR in 2009 has not affected its brand recall. In a dull market, last year, sales of its two brands (Jaguar and Land Rover) grew by 32 per cent to 2,393 units as against 1,813 units sold in 2011.

JLR has expanded its line-up to nine models with several variants, making it one of the most aggressive luxury auto players in the country.

To strengthen its line-up, Jaguar launched its latest model, F-Type today, priced at Rs 1.37 crore (the V8S version is priced at Rs 1.61 crore). The luxury cabriolet (automatic roof) is a first-of-its-kind Jaguar and among the few offered by luxury automakers in India.

Despite the steep price tag, atleast three buyers have confirmed bookings for the F-Type even before the car got officially launched. Since the sports car will be fully built in England before being shipped, consumers will have to wait for five months to get delivery. The waiting period will increase if buyers choose to customise the car.

However, the idea for JLR is not to eke out huge numbers from the luxurious Jaguar F-Type. The model, instead, will act as the crowd-puller, showcasing Jaguar's engineering prowess and capabilities.

Rohit Suri, vice president, Jaguar & Land Rover India, says, "The Jaguar F-Type is going to enhance the appeal of the brand in India. It is going to be the halo-effect car for the brand."

Two variants of F-Type will be available in India: The F-Type S (top speed of 275kmph) and the F-Type V8S (top speed of 300kmph). They are powered by the new 3.0 litre V6 supercharged petrol engine developing peak power of 380PS, and 5.0 litre V8 supercharged petrol engine producing 495PS, respectively.

The company is intent on strengthening the JLR brands to make way for more affordable models in the coming years. JLR is working on new models including a 'baby Jaguar' and compact Land Rovers that will allow it to compete with models from BMW, Mercedes or Audi.

The new range of products will not be imported but assembled at Pune, driving costs southwards. Earlier this year, India became home to the first Jaguar produced outside of the UK since the 1970s, when the XF saloon was assembled locally.

Hinting at JLR competing with recently-launched affordable models from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, Suri says, "Definitely you can expect some action in the near future". All the three German companies have lowered their entry price tags to Rs 20-30 lakh to tap a larger consumer base through compact products bearing their luxury design and product DNA.

Wilfried Aulbur, managing partner and CEO, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants India, points out, "JLR has an opportunity in the Indian market. It has a very strong Indian connect which resonates well. It has a product line-up which is geared for Indian consumers as it has a large SUV line-up with brand Land Rover. The future for JLR depends on the right product entering India, through local manufacturing and on good marketing".

Experts believe that aided by parent Tata Motors' local manufacturing expertise and an aggressive model line-up, JLR is in the best position to challenge the domination of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz in India. According to reports, Land Rover has plans for 16 new models to capture a 3 per cent global market share by 2020. Apart from compact cars, Jaguar will also have a crossover vehicle in the near future.

With nine models, JLR is one of the smaller luxury players in the country by volume. Mercedes-Benz has 13 models with 21 variants, followed by BMW with 11 models and 16 variants and Audi with 13 models. These include imported models too.

However, these volumes are driven by the locally-assembled models. In addition to the Jaguar XF, JLR also assembles the Land Rover Freelander 2 in Pune. Plans are afoot to increase the focus on its Pune plant and assemble more models there.

The Indian luxury car market, according to manufacturers, is estimated to be at 33,000-34,000 units annually, growing at over 20 per cent per year. The growth in the three-four years before last has been in the range of 40-50 per cent, but mellowed down last year due to trying economic conditions. It is expected that by 2020, the Indian car market will be among the top five in the world.