Jaguar Land Rover sales boost.
In a huge boost for the firm, Jaguar Land Rover today announced record sales figures for March across a range of key international markets - notably in the UK, China and India.
JLR combined sales were up 22% in March compared to a year before, and 14% up for the first quarter as compared to the same period in 2010.
And in contrast with disappointing car sales in the UK more generally, Land Rover in particular beat its previous UK sales record set in 2010 with sales of 11,400 for the month of March - the highest monthly figure in the firm's 63 year history.
Sales in the emerging economies of China, India and Russia surged - with March sales up by 33%, 61% and 47% respectively. Sales in the critical North America market were also up by an impressive 24%.
This continued Land Rover's strong run so far in 2011, with the brand's sales up by 15% overall for the first quarter of 2011, on the back of a very positive consumer reaction to the 2011 Year versions of the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Freelander and Discovery models.
That comes before the launch, later this year, of the new Range Rover Evoque, which will be a smaller, more fuel efficient Range Rover.
Jaguar also delivered, with overall sales up by 8% for the first quarter of 2011, with success for the new flagship XJ model and continued growth for the XF. India saw Jaguar sales up by a staggering 3500% - the brand's strongest ever month there, with sales in China up 6%, Korea up 29%, Russia up 70%, Germany up 49% and Japan up 34%.
The ongoing success of the XF is welcome for the firm as the model will be 4 years old this year, and is due for a facelift towards the end of the year which will take styling cues from the new XJ. The XF line up may also be extended, with an estate version of the car a distinct possibility, and with the range featuring a more fuel efficient 2.2 litre diesel -probably with stop-start technology.
Add in a facelift for the XK, a possible two-seater F-type sports car, a smaller Jag that could take on BMW's top selling 3 series - perhaps echoing the lines of the stunning R-D6 concept car of a few years ago - and maybe even a Jaguar crossover car, and one can start to picture a stable of Jaguar models that for the first time could compete across the range with the likes of BMW and Mercedes.
JLR Assembly in India a step nearer - despite import duty changes
Meanwhile JLR is set to begin assembly in India by the end of May, according to some recent media reports. It is thought that to begin with the Pune assembly facility will produce Freelander models.
Assembly in India will help JLR to grow sales in the burgeoning Indian market, as the firm will be able to sell at prices closer to those of rivals such as BMW, Audi and Daimler, which already assemble at plants there.
JLR currently exports Jaguar and Land Rover models to India, but these imports cars attract a tariff of over 100%. In contrast, imported knock-down kits will soon attract levies of 30% (up from 10% but below a recently proposed 60%) where there are pre-assembled engines or gear boxes, or just 10% when engines and gear boxes are assembled in India.
While the recent duty changes in India in effect make assembly in India less profitable for JLR than first thought, the very rapid growth in the local market combined with the fact that this is Tata's home market make local assembly a continued priority for the firm.
JLR is also in talks with Indian suppliers to supply more components to JLR generally, which are 30 to 40% cheaper than those manufactured in Western markets.
While in the future that might affect some component suppliers here in the UK, overall the sales and production boost for JLR of late will bring positive news for the industry.
Professor David Bailey works at Coventry University Business School.