I don’t normally cut and paste from press releases, but this line from the JLR PR office is hard to beat for its brevity.
The company has just announced that it sold 487,065 vehicles in 2015, five percent up on what it managed in 2014. Land Rover remains much the dominant partner, accounting for 403,079 of the vehicles sold.
Although JLR isn’t breaking down numbers into individual models sales, it says sales of the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models reached an all-time high. Even better news for the health of the Land Rover brand is the news that the new Discovery Sport is now selling around 10,000 units per month, making it the second best-selling model after the Evoque.
The early success of the Disco Sport is more important than it might seem. The crucial global market for premium compact SUVs was one that Land Rover had been missing out on.
In the latter half of its life, annual global sales of the Freelander 2 were comparatively poor, stuck as they were at around 55,000 units - less than half of what the model's competitors from BMW and Audi could manage.
By getting the Disco Sport up to an annualised 120,000 sales, Land Rover has plugged an important gap in its range. The Evoque, the brand's smallest model and now into its fifth year on sale, is still selling strongly and is the brand’s best seller.
Around the world, combined JLR sales across Europe were up 28% to 110,298 units while sales in the UK finally cracked six figures. The US remains a market with much potential, because while sales were up by 25%, they remained under 100,000 units at 94,066.
It’s interesting to consider that the combined European and US new car markets account for around 13m and 17m annual sales respectively, but JLR takes just 100,000 or so in each market. That represents nothing if not the potential for growth.
Jaguar remains very much the minor partner in JLR. Its sales were up three percent in 2015 to 83,986 vehicles. It’s true that 2015 was a transition year for the brand, with the new XF and all-new XE arriving in the second half of the year. The real test for Jaguar will be the launch of the F-Pace later this year.
The F-Pace looks great - clearly lifting the style of the F-Type - and is the right kind of car in a booming market niche. If this glamorous vehicle doesn’t break the Jaguar brand into the mainstream, the first serious cracks will have appeared in JLR’s incredible run of success.
2016 is, undoubtedly, a pivotal year for JLR. Work will begin on the big new factory in Slovakia and the company will have to negotiate an increasingly rocky global economy. Indeed, JLR sales in China crashed in 2015 by 24%, and the loss of thousands of vehicles in the Tianjin port explosion hardly helped.
JLR bosses have often talked of the ideal annual ‘scale’ in order for the firm to be able to both prosper and survive future economic turmoil. So far, nobody has been willing to reveal what the number might be, although Jaguar design chief Ian Callum said: "Reaching [annual sales] of a million was not the plan."
Indeed, JLR boss Ralph Speth recently described JLR as ‘boutique’ car maker, a comment that echoes noises from other medium and small luxury car makers which see themselves as more like luxury goods makers than the big three German car makers, who continue to pursue volume and every niche imaginable.
I’d guess that 800-850,000 annual sales of premium-priced cars would probably well suit JLR by the turn of the next decade. And if Jaguar does fail to break into serious sales, the global rise and rise of crossovers and SUVs should ensure the Land Rover brand carries the company.
And who’d of thought that of the automotive curio that was Land Rover 25 years ago?