Hopefully there will be a chance to quiz Ford execs at the Cobo Center in Detroit today on their views now that Jaguar Land Rover is firing on all eight cylinders, four years after Tata bought the Brit brands from the Blue Oval.
Anecdotally, I’m told that the question elicits a grimace from Ford high-ups who are also grappling with the challenge of penetrating the global luxury market at the same time as JLR is going from strength to strength.
Just for the record, JLR lifted global sales by 30 per cent last year to 357,000 units. Sales in China were up 71 per cent, Russia 43 per cent, Germany 41 per cent, UK 19 per cent and the US nine per cent.
In contrast, Lincoln, Ford’s luxury nameplate, has seen sales slide steadily since a peak in 1990. It is currently on a push with seven new models to reverse this decline, although the drive is focused entirely on North America.
Readers with a long memory might remember a decade ago that Lincoln was twinned with JLR in an effort to turn it into a global luxury brand, but the plan stalled on several counts and was canned by Ford’s financial problems.
Mention the contrast between Jaguar and Land Rover’s current fortunes and its troubles during Ford ownership, and JLR’s current management team is too professional to gloat — but we know that privately JLR’s managers are very happy to be free of Ford. A big test will come in April when the F-type gets its first press evaluations. The F-type is the first car taken from blueprint to production since Tata took over. The Evoque was already well in the planning.
The significance of the F-type means that Jag has nothing new at the Cobo Center, and at Geneva in March it will avoid distracting from the F-type launch with another quiet show.
This year is definitely shaping up to be the year of the F-type for JLR. I wonder what sort of year it’ll be for Lincoln and Ford’s luxury car ambitions?