The State of Jaguar: An interview with Jaguar Land Rover CEO Joe Eberhardt
This year will be pivotal in the history of Jaguar as the company prepares to launch two vehicles that could more than double the U.S. volume of the iconic British make. We sat down with Joe Eberhardt, president and CEO of Jaguar Land Rover North America to discuss the prospects for the cars and now crossover that carry the legendary leaping cat.
Q: Right now, crossover SUVs are a hot commodity. How is that affecting Jaguar’s market position?
A: There is a fundamental shift in the luxury market in particular away from the car into SUVs and crossovers. From that perspective, we are excited that we have an entry [the 2017 Jaguar F-Pace] to that market. I wouldn’t underplay the importance of the XE as well. It is going to go into the largest part of the luxury market, the compact sedan market. But I think between the two cars, they will be very quickly the biggest selling vehicles in our lineup. We think we can double our volume this year over last year.
Q: Which one will be the biggest seller?
A: We will let the customers decide. The beauty is that we have the flexibility to react to demand in either direction. If F-Pace is in higher demand we can satisfy that, and vice versa. Personally, I think the F-Pace will be the volume seller at this point in time. We have launched a pre-order program [the first ever for Jaguar covering the F-Pace and XE] where you put a $500 deposit which reserves your car and then when it launches you get a small monetary benefit as well. We have over 2,000 pre-orders right now and it’s heavily skewed towards F-Pace.
Q: But does the Jaguar XE figure prominently in your forward plans?
A: The XE is critical. It is a competitive product from a performance perspective, from a dynamic perspective, it looks fantastic. You have to put it against its direct competitors to see why the car looks so different. You put it next to the established players and the proportions make it look different.
Q: Do you believe buyers are ready for something different in that segment?
A: I think they are. The media has been kind to the vehicle. The driving kudos, some believe it is the new standard in the segment. We are not looking to do [BMW] 3 Series or [Mercedes-Benz] C-Class volumes. There may be someone who is on their third 3 Series and maybe it’s time to try something different. The car has done well in tests. I think the Jaguar brand in general has a lot of positive attributes and there is definitely awareness there. It’s a likeable brand.
The big issue with the brand is that people are not aware of it or not liking it, it is the perceived concern, based on historical evidence, about the quality, durability and reliability of the brand and the cost of service. That is a big outcome of our research. [The XE] looks great, drives great, [the questions rise] because of the durability and reliability. We have addressed that with Jaguar Elite Care, which is the industry’s best coverage both in terms length of warranty as well as scheduled maintenance included. There is nobody else out there today that offers 5 years, 60,000 miles scheduled maintenance included in the car. And the warranty covers the same length. We wanted to put our money where our mouth is, address concerns head on and take the last purchase barrier out of the way.
Q. How big can Jaguar grow?
A: It is important to have realistic expectations for your brand. You have to know as much as what you don’t want to be as what you want to be. We know where our place is and everything is geared towards that rather than chasing unrealistic goals.
I do think that is a very real and important advantage and distinction we have, we are not going to be as commonplace as some other luxury brands. The definition of luxury is just that. It is a certain degree of exclusivity and it’s not just for everyone. Luxury cars do what other cars do, get you from A to B, but they do it in an exclusive and slightly different way. We need to maintain that. I like the British term bespoke because it does encapsulate what the experience is what we are trying to provide our customer. You can get a suit in a mass market store or you can get it exclusively for you.
Q. With the XK going away, have you lost business in the 2+2 market?
A. The F-Type has picked up volume beyond XK in every way. We are happy with that. Would there be some incremental business in a 2+2 maybe…but the investment would be too high. There are other segments we need to invest in.
Q: How is XJ doing?
A: The XJ has undergone a significant update. It has maintained its shape, which I think is fresh and iconic. We have made significant updates to the car’s Achilles’ heel which had been electronics, infotainment and entertainment system. With InControl Touch Pro, we have caught up to the competition and we have some features that are ahead of the competition. We have all the driver assistance systems and as a result the XJ has some years left.
Q: As a standalone maker of luxury cars (Jaguar) and SUVs (Land Rover), what are your plans in meeting CAFE and Zero Emission Vehicle regulations?
A: It is a challenge for us as it is for everyone else. We need to continue our program of weight reduction. We need to have new powertrains, whether it is traditional combustion engines, which we need to improve. We will need to add the diesel element and we will need to play in the electric and plug in electric hybrid space. We are working on that and will make the announcement when we are ready. Without that, we won’t be able to hit those emissions and fuel economy standards.