Jaguar Land Rover Wants to Build Cars in the U.S., but Only If Americans Buy More

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
jaguar land rover wants to build cars in the u s but only if americans buy more

Jaguar Land Rover says it’s totally stoked at the idea of establishing a production facility in the United States, but claims Americans will probably need to buy a few more cars before that vision can become a reality. This might not be a problem, as U.S. buyers have been all about JLR lately. Group sales were the best in over fifteen years in 2016 and last year saw the company achieve a record high of 114,333 deliveries.

While the majority of those sales come from Land Rover, Jaguar has also seen impressive growth over the last three years. More North American sales are definitely coming, especially with Rover already looking to have one of its best years on record in just the first three months of 2018. So why won’t the manufacture pull the trigger and start laying the groundwork on a new factory?

According to CEO Ralf Speth, Jaguar Land Rover doesn’t see itself as a large enough automaker to make big moves without some very careful planning. In a recent interview with Wards Auto, Speth said he still feels JLR is a “very small company.”

“We need a certain volume of vehicles to be sold in the U.S. to make the overall production in the U.S. viable,” he said.

When pressed about Volvo’s decision to set up an assembly plant in South Carolina, despite delivering just 81,504 vehicles in the U.S. last year, the CEO didn’t see the equivalency. “Everybody’s business case is different and everybody starts maybe in a different way,” he said. “I don’t want to discuss the advantages or disadvantages of Volvo. We really need to find our own way.”

We don’t think it’s an unfair comparison. Both companies have similarly sized parent companies (Tata for JLR, Geely for Volvo) and sell to roughly the same consumer base. It’s not a perfect comparison, but we can’t think of many better.

Jaguar Land Rover’s way forward doesn’t just involved improving sales. Speth says a dominant model will need to emerge on the U.S. market before the company can build a factory there. While the F-Pace is the clear standout for Jaguar, practically everything in Land Rover’s lineup moves between 10,000 and 20,000 annual units in the United States.

“We have 15 or 16 nameplates … if you divide every and each number by this 15 or 16 then you will recognize the remaining number per nameplate is not big enough,” Speth explained. “So can you maybe encourage [sales and marketing and dealers] to sell a little bit more from at least one or two nameplates?”

The company is already making commitments to America, however. In addition to its new new U.S. headquarters in Mahwah, NJ, Jaguar will supply 20,000 examples of its I-Pace battery-electric CUV to Waymo for use in its autonomous fleet. Those cars won’t be coming until 2020, so the brand could have set up shop in North America, given that the U.S. is one of its target markets. But Magna Steyr, which was tapped to manufacturer the vehicle for JLR, understandably decided to build it in Graz, Austria, next to the E-Pace.

However, that facility is already stretched pretty thin; it recently began construction auxiliary factory in Slovenia to help with production. If I-Pace demand exceeds expectations in North America, and JLR can pin down another volume model, perhaps the U.S. will get that factory after all.

[Images: JLR]

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3 of 4 comments
  • Vulpine Vulpine on Apr 06, 2018

    Make what Americans want and more people will buy them. But from what we've seen so far, their reliability will have to move significantly higher on the chart.

  • SuperCarEnthusiast SuperCarEnthusiast on Apr 08, 2018

    For me to buy another Jag or even a RR, the vehicles would have to approach the reliability of a Toyota/Lexus model.

    • Tstag Tstag on Apr 09, 2018

      It’s funny for me to ever consider a Lexus product it would have to have the sophistication and looks of a JLR product.... I don’t really give a stuff about reliability as all cars are fairly reliable these days and the key issues with a car are normally resolved in the warranty period. That said for JLR I sell more cars in the USA they should make reliability a higher priority and they should focus on getting the Defender and Defender pickup to market faster.

  • CEastwood Seven mil nitrile gloves from Harbor Freight for oil changes and such and the thicker heavy duty gripper gloves from Wally World for most everything else . Hell we used to use no gloves for any of that and when we did it was usually the white cloth gloves bought by the dozen or the gray striped cuff ones for heavy duty use . Old man rant over , but I laugh when I see these types of gloves in a bargain bin at Home Cheapo for 15 bucks a pair !
  • Not Previous Used Car of the Day entries that spent decades in the weeds would still be a better purchase than this car. The sucker who takes on this depreciated machine will learn the hard way that a cheap German car is actually a very expensive way to drive around.
  • Bullnuke Well, production cuts may be due to transport-to-market issues. The MV Fremantle Highway is in a Rotterdam shipyard undergoing repairs from the last shipment of VW products (along with BMW and others) and to adequately fireproof it. The word in the shipping community is that insurance necessary for ships moving EVs is under serious review.
  • Frank Wait until the gov't subsidies end, you aint seen nothing yet. Ive been "on the floor" when they pulled them for fuel efficient vehicles back during/after the recession and the sales of those cars stopped dead in their tracks
  • Vulpine The issue is really stupidly simple; both names can be taken the wrong way by those who enjoy abusing language. Implying a certain piece of anatomy is a sign of juvenile idiocy which is what triggered the original name-change. The problem was not caused by the company but rather by those who continuously ridiculed the original name for the purpose of VERY low-brow humor.