Tata brings new life to Jaguar, Land Rover
Tip your hat to Tata. The Indian conglomerate that bought Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford in 2008 has turned out to be the best owner the British marques ever had.
While other luxury brands changed hands before and during the Great Recession — most notably Hummer, Saab, Aston Martin and Volvo — and stumbled under new ownership, Jaguar Land Rover is flourishing. But challenges lie ahead.
In the five years since the Tata Group bought them from Ford, Jaguar and Land Rover have aggressively adopted fuel-efficient new drivetrains, with more to come. The brands' styling has also been energized, as JLR's design teams shook things up with fresh styling.
Land Rover's case was especially dire. In 2008, the SUV-only brand appeared to be on a fast track to extinction.
JLR and Tata turned that around with the Evoque, the first vehicle largely developed under the new management. The small, fuel-efficient Evoque redefined the luxury SUV, won awards and fueled a sales surge. JLR dealers made a record 357,773 sales in 2012, the Evoque's first full year on the market.
“They've managed to take a brand that was three-quarters of the way around the bend to irrelevancy and make it something to be benchmarked for style, technology and luxury,” said Edmunds.com senior analyst Bill Visnic.
Equally important, Tata listened to the people who sell Jaguars and Land Rovers. Ratan Tata, the company's recently retired chairman, toured American dealerships and asked what they needed to compete with BMW and Mercedes. The folks who sell the cars and SUVs begged for fuel-efficient drivetrains and all-wheel-drive cars. Without them, Jaguar was a marginal player.
Just two years later, every Jaguar sedan offers all-wheel-drive, and either a four- or six-cylinder engine is available in nearly every model JLR sells.
The results speak for themselves. JLR's U.S. sales are up 13 percent this year. JLR's pre-tax profit rose 27 percent last year, and should be higher this year.
JLR's next big move comes this fall, when the little Jaguar F-type roadster arrives. Priced, sized and powered to compete with sports cars such as the Porsche Boxster and Chevrolet Corvette, the F-type was developed to attract new buyers and restore the brand's credentials with enthusiasts.
Even quality — long their weakness — is improving. J.D. Power rated Jaguar No. 2 in initial quality last year. Land Rover still scores poorly.
The company is building a plant in England to produce new fuel-efficient engines, beginning in 2015 or 2016. It will be a huge victory for Tata if the engines can compete with the best from global luxury brands.
After that comes a pair of even taller tasks: developing new vehicle platforms and a compact sedan that can compete with the BMW 3 series, Cadillac ATS and Mercedes-Benz C-class. Every global luxury brand needs to be in that hot-selling segment.
Whether JLR delivers on those metrics could determine if the first five years under Tata were the beginning of a golden age, or a brief moment in the sun.
Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- This robot is cute, artificially intelligent and employed
- Shareholder vote causes ATI to review executive pay packages
- Murray, Alpha notify West Virginia coal miners of layoffs
- AT&T evolves beyond phones
- How to cover work history gaps
- Financial planning for disabled people a little-tapped field
- Keep pesky neighbors from stealing your Internet
- Taxes matter in fund investing, even when there’s no bill
- Pa. sees widespread job gains; jobless rate holds at 5.3%
- FAA: Cockpit email system reduces delays
- Cheap oil can hurt economy