F-Type, Range Rover Loom Large At Jaguar Land Rover Page 4

June 6, 2012

Beyond F-Type and Range Rover

Even after the Range Rover and F-Type launch, the Jaguar Land Rover brands will still be a very small car company in the global scheme and especially in the U.S., where it accounts for a tenth of a percent of total sales volume. To grow sales means engaging in a dogfight, segment by segment, with the likes of BMW, Lexus, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz, brands with a strong dealer and media presence and access to huge marketing budgets.

At the same time, Jaguar Land Rover has to battle lingering perceptions of poor quality that were diffused somewhat in the Ford era, but have begun to resurface--in particular as sales of the Jaguar brand have slumped. The fewer vehicles on the road, the smaller the sample in critical studies like the recent J.D. Power Initial Quality Score survey that put several of the company's products at the bottom of their respective segments.

To get back to sustainability in sales and in reputation, new products are in the planning stages. Jaguar's need for a mainstream hit has often focused on a crossover vehicle--but the success of new Evoque likely means the 2013 F-Type will be followed up by a new XF crafted from aluminum, then by a 3-Series-sized four-door that would erase the memories of the old X-Type forever. It's likely that smaller sedan wouldn't be made from aluminum--costed out, it doesn't seem to make sense, while the XF replacement may, Jaguar executives explained to TheCarConnection--but it would be a technology showpiece, with the latest turbocharged four- and six-cylinder drivetrains yet to come from a new factory in the West Midlands.

Jaguar's also paying attention to lightweight construction on other fronts via its coming C-X75 supercar. The two-seat hybrid won't sport the microturbines of its concept-car inspiration, but the production version of the turbocharged gas-electric hybrid will likely be a composite-bodied vehicle--a learning bed for the company as it keeps cutting weight from its vehicles.

The weight-loss mantra will extend to other Land Rovers, too. The 2013 Range Rover could spawn a five- or seven-seat replacement for today's hefty Range Rover Sport, one with styling akin to the Evoque. A Defender that spawns a new family of more capable SUVs seems possible, given the existence of the DC100 concept and determination to keep the Land Rover spirit intact, but outside of Land Rover's board room, it's speculation.

That leaves two Land Rover vehicles unaccounted for, and possibly subsumed by the Range Rover brand entirely. The LR2 could fade in favor of the Evoque, while the LR4 could be overlapped by a new Range Rover Sport. Certainly, the dual branding in the U.S. is a marketing challenge even a larger company would have trouble tackling.

It's a start-up kind of decision, whether to snuff out a brand name or not--another point of inflection. Jaguar and Land Rover have been there before, time and time again. Even when times were good, just when the cars were right, everything changed, and it was time to start over.

This time, with the new Range Rover and F-Type, at least they won't be doing it from scratch.

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