Jaguar is set to confirm the launch of its first ever 'performance crossover' car - an aluminium-bodied sport utility vehicle designed to move the premium saloon and sports car maker out from the shadows of its more successful Land Rover stable mate.
At this week’s Detroit Motor Show, the company is expected to announce that the new vehicle - called the F-Pace - will go on sale in 2016, according to people familiar with its plans. It will be built at its new lightweight technology facility at Solihull in the UK, creating 1,300 jobs in the process.
Crossovers, which offer a higher driving position without the bulk of a full-size SUV, have become the must-have model for mainstream and luxury carmakers alike.
Sales in the so-called medium premium SUV category are expected to increase 30 per cent to 1.9m by the end of the decade, according to IHS Automotive, having already tripled in the past five years.
A number of similar launches are due to be unveiled in Detroit this week, such as the Mercedes GLE Coupe - and manufacturers including Bentley and Rolls-Royce are also working on upmarket SUVs.
Since the launch of the highly successful Range Rover Evoque in 2011, Jaguar has lacked the sales and profitability of its Land Rover sister brand. It was already falling behind when Tata Motors acquired both marques from Ford in 2008, and has been stubbornly lossmaking, despite the wider operation flourishing.
In the first two quarters of the current financial year, the combined JLR made £1.5bn in pre-tax profit - more than the £1.3bn Tata paid Ford - having invested £10bn over the past five years.
But Jaguar has been on a roll of late, with the launch of the F-Type in 2013 and, in October, the aluminium-bodied XE, which is part of the wider group's plan to compete with the popular midsize saloons of BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen's Audi. Jaguar's F-Pace will extend that challenge to the Germans, with the Indian-owned carmaker targeting buyers of the BMW X4 and the Porsche Macan.
“Tata has given JLR enough autonomy and power to develop the product line-up,” said Pierluigi Berlini, analyst at IHS Automotive. “And it’s paying off. This is a success story.”
That success was underlined as JLR unveiled full-year sales numbers for 2014, when it sold 463,000 vehicles, a rise of almost 10 per cent on the prior year. Land Rover made up the majority of those volumes, with shipments up 9 per cent year on year at 381,000. Jaguar sold 82,000 vehicles, up 6 per cent.
Last year witnessed the opening of JLR’s first overseas factory, in Chengshu, China, and the company is working hard to expand its dealer network in the country. JLR’s sales in the world’s largest car market rose 28 per cent in 2014 to 122,000.
JLR also unveiled its £500m EMC plant near Wolverhampton in 2014, which will make the Ingenium engine that powers the F-Pace.
(c) 2015 The Financial Times Ltd.