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Auto special:Jaguar Land Rover merges two hearts into one

By Li Fusheng ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-03-31 08:36:44

There is a Chinese saying that, "When two men are one at heart, they will gain strength with which metal can be cut". That wisdom is helping British icon Jaguar Land Rover grow its sales for seven months in a row - and probably more to come - in the world's largest automotive market.

The British company's sales in China for February were up 14 percent on an annual basis, representing a second consecutive month of year-on-year growth in the China market.

The stellar performance despite China's economic slowdown has bolstered Jaguar Land Rover's confidence and led to its expectation of at least a "double-digit" growth rate year-on-year in 2016.

"When somebody asked why JLR has improved the market over the past seven months, it is actually because we just work together to get on and achieve a common goal," said Mark Bishop, president of Jaguar Land Rover China and Chery Jaguar Land Rover's Integrated Marketing, Sales and Service.

When he refers to "we", Bishop means himself and IMSS Deputy President James Hu, who were both appointed in June 2015 to head the organization responsible for the marketing and sales of Jaguar and Land Rover products in China.

Both gave similar comments on their partnership although they were asked the question separately: They have different strengths but similar career experiences and that ensures an easy understanding and allows them to work well as a team.

"We communicate a lot. James has specific elements of business to look after and there is part of business that I look after," Bishop said. "We both understand where we want to go and we just have to use everything at our disposal to make it work.

"For us, it is simple: Good discussion and debate always allows us to make a better decision."

Bishop said the IMSS ensures efficiency as both parents - Jaguar Land Rover China and Chery Jaguar Land Rover - understand the organization needs to make its own decisions and to grow as fast as it can.

That mechanism has allowed open and deep dialogues with the company's dealers and helped solve problems while market feedback has enabled the carmaker to quickly adjust its pricing and improve its sales.

"It was a little bit difficult in 2015 but we've proven what we have done since the second half of last year. ... We are on the right track now. The changes we have been making may be a bit slow but they are producing the results we want," Bishop said.

The results are benefiting both Jaguar Land Rover and its dealers. Hu said, "Around 80 percent of our dealers made a profit last year, a figure higher than other international brands." He added that those who are temporarily in the red are mainly new stores.

"It is a normal process and those who have been in operation for more than one year are reaping a profit," Hu said. He said the IMSS will consolidate its sales networks in first and second-tier cities while expanding to cover more third- and fourth-tier ones and help dealers enhance their abilities in operations and profit-making.

"If we cannot ensure they make profits, how would they put our customers first?" Hu said.

Bishop said the "customer first" concept has been one of Jaguar Land Rover's philosophies that has been in place for years.

"We at the IMSS have got to remember that at every decision or action we make there is a customer at the end of that action, somewhere. If we get employees at our organization and our dealers' network remembering there is a customer, then we take a huge step forward in putting customers first."

Year of the Cat

While the IMSS ensures the two brands' healthy development in China, the increasingly enriched portfolio, especially the introduction of Jaguar models, is set to fuel their sales performance.

Jaguar's first SUV F-PACE will reach the Chinese market in early June and the first China-made Jaguar model - which will have its premiere at the Beijing auto show - will go on sale at the end of the year.

Hu said, "Jaguar is an elegant brand, claiming Art of Performance. People know the brand but have little idea of its models. Its image of elegance and sportiness will get clearer as we offer more cars."

Bishop said this year for Jaguar Land Rover in China is the "Year of the Cat", calling the F-PACE "a setting stone" for Jaguar to become established in a market where people crave SUVs.

In February, 478,000 SUVs were sold in the country, a 44-percent surge year-on-year and a continuation of the sales momentum seen last year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Bishop said he believed the F-PACE will also bring more customers into showrooms where they will see other cars on offer - the XE, F-TYPE and XJ - and that he expected the arrival of the locally produced Jaguar model would open the brand up to more Chinese customers.

"If we make sure firstly we have high quality products, secondly we have the pricing correct and thirdly we get our dealers behind the car, I believe we have a very, very strong opportunity to get Jaguar established. It may take a while to become huge, but each step will be positive," said Bishop.

There are already two China-made Land Rover models - the Range Rover Evoque and Discovery Sport - and they have contributed nearly half of Jaguar Land Rover's China sales through the first two months this year.

Hu forecasted that the locally made Land Rover models would outperform imported models in 2016 while the Discovery Sport, which was launched late last year, would see a sales surge this year.

He said a refreshed Range Rover Evoque would hit the market in June, offering better value.

The first China-made Evoque rolled off the production line of Chery Jaguar Land Rover's Changshu plant in October 2014. Since then, the plant has been localizing one model every six months. The plant is the first full-scale automotive manufacturing facility of Jaguar Land Rover outside the UK.

lifusheng@chinadaily.com.cn

Auto special:Jaguar Land Rover merges two hearts into one

Auto special:Jaguar Land Rover merges two hearts into one

(China Daily 03/31/2016 page18)

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