With its least-expensive car coming in September, Jaguar North America expects record U.S. sales of at least 50,000 units this year despite a slow start in January.
January sales fell 18 percent to 2,511. Dealer council chairman Martin Bennett of Thoroughbred Motorcars in Nashville, Tenn., said at the make meeting at the NADA convention that sales were dreadful in the last half of December and the first half
of January but seem to be picking up.
"We're subject to the same trends as the rest of the industry," he said. For the whole industry, U.S. light-vehicle sales fell 3 percent in January. That was the fourth monthly decline in a row, but it was better than analysts had expected.
Jaguar President Mike O'Driscoll told dealers at the Jaguar meeting that new products, new advertising and Jaguar's participation in Formula 1 racing will reinvigorate the brand and polish its performance image.
Jaguar adds the all-wheel-drive X-Type, its BMW 3-series fighter, in September for the 2002 model year.
The company also is adding high-performance "R" versions of many of its models, similar in concept to BMW's "M" models or AMG-modified versions at Mercedes. Jaguar will add an R version of the X-Type in "a couple years," O'Driscoll said.
Bennett said the X-Type will get more advance publicity than any Jaguar in history. The company already has an X-Type Web site, with photos and descriptions of the car, even though it does not make its official world debut until the Geneva auto show later this month.
The X-Type is expected to be priced starting around $30,000. That means Jaguar dealers must be prepared for a different group of customers.
"We've got to address our message away from traditional Jaguar owners," Bennett said.
O'Driscoll told dealers that Jaguar needs to be "aspirational but accessible for a wider range of buyers.
"We're going to have new customers, younger buyers coming into the franchise. It's very important that they not get turned off," O'Driscoll said.
"We have got to make ourselves more accessible."