Ken Gorin, chairman of the Jaguar Business Operations Council, wants to make sure Jaguar dealers are able to be profitable as they wait for new products and the brand repositions itself.
Gorin is enthusiastic about Jaguar recasting itself as a prime maker of luxury goods, similar to Tiffany or Louis Vuitton. As Jaguar moves upmarket, it is concentrating on lower volume with higher profits per unit, he says.
He says dealers are eager for Jaguar to introduce the XK this spring. Gorin is confident the XK will be the brand's hottest product.
Gorin, owner of The Collection, in Coral Gables, Fla., spoke with Staff Reporter Gail Kachadourian.
What's hot at Jaguar? What's not?
The hot product is the new Jaguar XK that we all saw at the dealer intro in Los Cabos in September. We will be introducing it into the U.S. market in April. It's a new design direction for Jaguar. There is absolutely no question it will be our hottest product. We're all very excited about it.
I'd say the not-so-hot side of things would clearly be the Jaguar X-Type. The fact (that) Jaguar made a decision to go upmarket and recast ourselves as a luxury brand by putting less emphasis on the X-Type and more emphasis on the XJ and XK has made it less hot by design. Jaguar came to the realization that we're a luxury brand and we can't be everything to everybody. While the X-Type was wonderful to bring new people into the brand, it is not really what a luxury brand like Jaguar should be all about.
What new products are on the way?
After the XK convertible and coupe in April 2006, in December 2006 we have the XKR version, which is the high-performance version. Then some product updates will be on the current S-Type and XJ. Then we're going to see an all-new S-Type vehicle in 2008.
What challenges do Jaguar dealers face in the next year?
The biggest challenge is the recasting to a lower-volume manufacturer by design. In getting away from incentives and changing our position in the market, there will be some volume adjustments at the dealer level. The biggest challenge will be adjusting to that.
What is the top priority of the Jaguar council in 2006?
Profitability. We believe that right now, since we're going through a transition period, that it's going to be difficult.
We think the future is extremely bright with the XK, but there is concern as it relates to the recasting of the actual volume numbers and what those effects will have on specific dealerships. Maybe not the dealer body in whole, but certain specific dealerships could have some issues as it relates to profitability and getting themselves refocused on lower-volume and higher profit.
What has been your biggest disappointment as council chairman?
That we have not been able to bring newer products to market in a quicker fashion.
What are the Jaguar dealer council's top concerns?
Specification of future models specific to certain regions. An example would be all-wheel drive on all our vehicles. Let us know what products in the future would have it and make them available.
To ensure that all dealers are prepared for the change of taking this franchise upmarket, concentrating on lower volume with higher profits on a per-unit basis.
Tell me about Jaguar's move upmarket.
Jaguar is recasting to a luxury good, similar to Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Tiffany, whatever it might be. It's a strategy to cast us not so much as a luxury car, but a luxury good. There can't be possibly anyone that doesn't feel it's the right thing to do. The concern would be getting there, and we will get there.
Is the new "Gorgeous" brand ad campaign bringing customers to Jaguar dealerships?
Absolutely. It not only affects people that have been Jaguar enthusiasts, but new people outside the Jaguar brand are very much intrigued by the advertising.
It's really, really neat to see a car manufacturer have the foresight to cast themselves as a luxury brand, and I feel very, very confident about it. I think you'll see it as the cornerstone of the turnaround and change of the focus of Jaguar.
What else do Jaguar dealers want in the lineup?
We'd like to very much see a unique, luxurious, distinctive all-wheel-drive crossover. I don't think there's any Jaguar dealer that would not want to see an attainable, affordable, exciting, two-seater sports car, similar to what the XKE meant to everyone in the '60s and '70s.
Should Jaguar kill the X-Type?
Jaguar dealers would not be concerned if Jaguar replaced the X-Type with a different vehicle that doesn't have to be a four-door but was an
attainable Jaguar from a pricing standpoint - as long as it fit within the luxury brand.
The difficulty comes as the X-Type gets older, if that replacement will come to the market soon enough. I think there will be a gap.
Jaguar would love to have that attainable car, but being a niche manufacturer and financially not robust, we have to concentrate on our core products, the new XK coming to market in the spring, followed by the replacement for the S-Type. Then probably a new XJ sedan, which is our flagship, before we would see a replacement for a car like the X-Type.
Our biggest frustration is more vehicles to market sooner.
What has been the consumer response toward the upcoming XK coupe and convertible? How many advance orders do you have?
At The Collection, we have 100 (advance orders). We'll find Jaguar will be sold out for the first year. It will be one of the hottest cars to hit the market in a long, long time.
Have you seen the next-generation S-Type?
No, the dealer body has not seen the replacement for the S-Type. They did show us a drawing in Los Cabos. It is one of the most beautiful cars I've ever seen. It is extremely innovative.
Do you see any progress in the Premier Automotive Group's desire to have Jaguar and Land Rover dealerships under the same roof?
I don't see as much progress as I would hope. They definitely want to do it, but with franchise laws in the United States, it's not as easy as one would hope.
How do dealers feel about Jaguar dropping free maintenance for 2006 models under warranty?
With Jaguar dealers just winning No. 1 in J.D. Power sales satisfaction over Lexus, Jaguar's quality issues or doubts are in the past. Jaguar dealers understand that free scheduled maintenance is not a necessity any longer.
At one point, because our quality perception was far less than reality, it was very important. But not any longer.
Jaguar is up there with the best of them. And it's a profit opportunity for us because people will be paying for maintenance.