LOS ANGELES - Despite a raft of subvented lease deals and heavy advertising, Jaguar Cars North America cannot maintain the launch momentum of its X-Type sedan.
After a buzz upon the car's debut in late 2001, X-Type sales have fallen off sharply since the second half of 2002. This year through April, Jaguar sold just 7,677 X-Types in the United States, down 41.9 percent from last year. At this rate, Jaguar will fall short of its goal of 30,000 X-Types in the United States this year.
The X-Type was the key to Jaguar's attempt to significantly boost its global volume to 200,000 units a year. But it also was a risk because it moved the brand significantly downmarket.
That the X-Type has been unable to keep pace with its segment rivals could result in significant financial pain for the automaker. Already, Ford Motor Co. COO Nick Scheele has claimed X-Type incentives were a contributor to Jaguar losing $500 million in the fourth quarter of 2002.
Jaguar executives say that other vehicles in the segment have much longer tenures and have built consumer awareness. But they are confident the X-Type will hold its own over the long term.
"The X-Type won't hit the same rate as last year, but sales are picking up," says Richard Beattie, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Jaguar and Land Rover North America. "At this end of the market, there are more buyers pushing for a deal."
The X-Type sold 33,018 units in the United States last year, which a spokesman says "exceeded expectations," but which was in line with forecasts made at the car's introduction.
In Europe, X-Type sales also faltered in the second half of last year. Through March, the most recent figures available, European X-Type sales were 7,205, down 16.6 percent. The lack of a diesel version has hurt in that market significantly.
As a result, the two largest markets for the car are well off pace to hit Jaguar's desired mark of 100,000
X-Types a year globally. But no market has been able to sustain the sort of volume needed to reach those numbers.