Britain’s Jaguar Land Rover has been on a roll since separating from Ford in 2008. New models, new engines, new technology and new plants have more than doubled the automaker’s global sales to 583,312 last year.
Indeed, JLR’s turnaround, from a money-losing business Ford dumped for $2.3 billion, at a huge loss, to India’s Tata Motors, is one of the industry’s biggest success stories of the last decade.
But now the next -- and far more difficult -- challenge awaits: growing annual global volume to 1 million vehicles, a goal of JLR’s hard-charging German CEO, BMW-trained Ralf Speth.
Perhaps the best opportunity to do that quickly and affordably has appeared with General Motors’ sale of its money-losing Opel and Vauxhall brands to France’s PSA Group.
JLR should approach PSA about buying Vauxhall, a brand consisting of mostly rebadged Opel vehicles that is available only in the United Kingdom.
With the addition of the Range Rover Velar and the fifth-generation Land Rover Discovery, as well as filling out the Jaguar lineup with the XE compact sedan and F-Pace crossover, JLR’s volume should easily top 600,000 vehicles in 2017 -- barring any dramatic economic disruptions.
A new version of the rugged Land Rover Defender is coming, as is the battery-powered Jaguar I-Pace crossover. And Jaguar is expected to get at least one more crossover. There is speculation that a Land Rover or Range Rover smaller than the Evoque could be in JLR’s product plans. But those vehicles likely would add only incremental sales and wouldn’t propel JLR to 1 million light vehicles a year.
Adding Vauxhall to JLR’s corporate garage makes sense for JLR and PSA. The real prize in the GM deal was Opel, which alone accounts for about a 1 million vehicles a year.