Dial ‘F’ for Fortuitous: Sports models have kept Jaguar in business in the US market for decades, so what’s the matter with their saloons?
At Driven To Write, we are constantly at pains to point out the repetitive nature of Jaguar’s history, much of which has to do with the marque’s frequent lapses into commercial and financial abysses – often of its own making.
For example, during the mid-1960’s Jaguar’s sales in the US slumped dramatically on the back of the commercial failure of the MK 10 and S-Type saloons. Luckily for Jaguar, the US market had developed an insatiable appetite for the E-Type – one Browns Lane struggled to meet owing to Sir William Lyons’ unwillingness to finance the body tooling that would have allowed them to produce the model in sufficient quantities. Nevertheless, throughout the decade, the ‘E’ essentially kept Jaguar afloat in the US until the XJ6 arrived and took up the cause.
Twenty years later, Jaguar’s fortunes were failing again in the US – the XJ40 saloon had stalled owing to quality and build issues that stemmed from its troubled gestation. However, the well-proven and (broadly) reliable XJ-S GT was in the midst of an Indian Summer sales-wise, providing Jaguar’s dealers with something they could sell – at least until Browns Lane got to grips with the ’40’.
Reel forward to 2014 and once again, Jaguar’s saloon car sales in the US are in significant decline. As we’ve previously reported, sales of the XJ are down 16% over the first seven months of 2014, against the same period last year. Similarly, over the same period, sales of the XF have fallen 17%. Less surprisingly, the soon to be discontinued XK is also flatlining. The only bright spot for Jaguar and their US dealers is the F-Type – up 48% over the same period last year.
So what does any of the above actually tell us? Well, it suggests that anyone who believes Jaguar shouldn’t be diverting its resources into sports cars but instead concentrate on saloons simply doesn’t understand the US market; a misapprehension perhaps Jaguar themselves have fallen prey to. Because time after time, Americans have told Jaguar they want sports models, yet Jaguar repeatedly sends them saloons. Saloons they clearly don’t appear interested in, which suggests that either the US market doesn’t want Jaguar saloons, or (more likely) they don’t want the kind of saloons Jaguar offer.
The F-Type was intended as a hero model – a low-volume image builder that would propel customers into dealers to buy Jaguar saloons in ever-increasing numbers. In fact the opposite appears to be occurring, while Jaguar’s former heartland car – the XJ, seems to be in terminal decline. The XF is likely to be replaced within 18-months, so its sales slide is perhaps easier to quantify.
Now this clearly is not a catastrophe – not yet anyway, but these figures should cause a considerable degree of soul-searching back at JLR towers. Because on current form, the only Jaguar model that appeals to US tastes is their lowest volume car. Begging the question – what kind of Jaguar saloon will it take to turn their fortunes around in what has traditionally been their biggest and most lucrative market?
US sales data via The Truth About cars
Photo via Jaguar Cars USA