The memo that the U.S. car market is finally slowing down apparently didn’t make it to Coventry, England. From its U.K. headquarters, Tata Motors' Jaguar brand has rocketed to the front of an increasingly listless crowd of vehicles in America.
In the first seven months of this year, Jaguar sales surged 59 percent, handily outpacing every other brand on the road. Volvo was a distant second, with a 29 percent increase in cars sold. Most of Jaguar’s luxury rivals—including Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Lexus, and Mercedes—have reported a dip in sales for the year to date.
"We couldn't be more tickled," said Chris Marchand, executive vice president of operations at Jaguar Land Rover North America. "Foot traffic in dealerships has more than tripled."
Still, the sales surge is a bit deceiving. For one, Jaguar had quite a bit of room for improvement. While the industry boomed in recent years, Jaguar's sales had largely been stagnant for a decade. With fewer than 15,000 cars sold in the U.S. last year, the brand lived almost purely on provenance—its storied history and the occasional Bond film. It takes Ford less than three days to move that much metal.
Jaguar engineers, however, weren't idle. They were busy drastically overhauling the lineup.
Car executives spend a lot of time talking about “product cadence,” the art of pacing precisely when to pull the cover off new models. Typically, they try to spread out big and exciting new looks to smooth demand and design resources. Jaguar did the opposite.
The brand overhauled its entire lineup in less than a year, rolling out a new version of its midrange XF sedan in November, followed a few months later by an updated XJ, its most expensive sedan. In May, U.S. dealers started selling two all-new models, the entry-level XE sedan and the F-Pace, Jaguar's first SUV.
It was a blitz of metal-based marketing that appears to be working handsomely.
“I think from a normal perspective you want to have a more staggered approach,” Joachim Eberhardt, the North America unit's chief executive, told us in September. “But what we're trying to do here is grab the attention of the marketplace."
The F-Pace in particular has been a hit. The midsize SUV has garnered breathless reviews while parking neatly in the hottest segment of the U.S. market. If fancy, family trucks are wrong, Americans don’t want to be right. The F-Pace rolled into U.S. dealerships in May and immediately became Jaguar’s bestseller. Last month, the little Costco-pod accounted for half of Jaguar transactions.