XF helped Jaguar sales to rise by 20% in January

XF helped Jaguar sales to rise by 20% in January

January was yet another excellent month in the UK for Jaguar, its sales rise of 20 per cent outpacing the market's 11 per per cent gain. Much of the additional volume is coming from the F-PACE, yet the brand's two youngest saloons are also doing well. The larger of those, the XF, has had some updates for model year 2017 and an estate will be added for MY2018.

Even the Germans are buying Jaguars

Worldwide, it was a record January for Jaguar, retail sales reaching 13,949 vehicles, up 76 per cent, compared to January 2016. The company notes not only the obvious factor of the F-PACE, which is now its best seller, but also strong demand for the XF and especially its long-wheelbase XFL derivative which is made only in China.

You don't often hear about English brand cars being popular in Germany. Things are changing, especially with the XF having beaten the Mercedes-Benz E-Class to win its size segment in the annual Golden Steering Wheel awards. The accolade was a big shot in the arm for this E-premium model and sales now reflect that. Jaguar registrations soared by 75 per cent in 2016 to 8,713 cars, from 4,987 in 2015. Jaguar might have had a terrific 2016 but it remains a small brand, moving from 30th place in the sales charts to 28th, slipping past Subaru and DS. It was still a long way behind Jeep (27th, 14,782) and Land Rover (26th, 22,799).

Wagons for the D and E segments with which it could face the C-Class Estate and E-Class Estate, plus a five-door C segment hatchback to chip away at the Audi A3 Sportback with, could pull this brand into the mainstream in Europe's number one market. More on that shortly.

China: first, catch Infiniti

Sales in China as listed by CAAM are for locally made models only, so Jaguar is a recent addition for the Association's data crunchers. The market rose by 14 per cent to 28.03 million vehicles, but you have to look a long way down the charts to find Jaguar. It's in 69th position, with 5,644 vehicles delivered. All of these were the XFL which went into production at the Chery-JLR factory in the city of Changshu during August. So a good result for a brand which has had only minimal visibility in this giant, crowded market.

The good news for Jaguar China is that XFL sales have increased month-on-month, with the total for December being 1,618. This placed the brand in position 66, ahead of DS, which makes multiple vehicles in the country, none of which is successful. Numbers by model for January have yet to be released. 

Some perspective on how far Jaguar has to climb can be seen if we look at other premium brands' locally made models' totals for December:

  • Infiniti: 2,972 cars & SUVs
  • Borgward: 5,556 SUVs
  • Land Rover 6,566 SUVs
  • Volvo: 7,783 cars and SUVs
  • Jeep: 14,246 SUVs
  • Cadillac: 15,108 sedans
  • BMW: 26,437 sedans, minivans & SUVs
  • Audi: 27,063 sedans & SUVs
  • Mercedes-Benz: 34,582 sedans & SUVs

What's coming next for Chery-JLR?

The XFL was the third vehicle to be built by Chery Auto-Jaguar Land Rover, following the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport. The Jiangsu province plant originally had a capacity of 130,000 vehicles per annum but this rose with the addition of the XFL. An adjacent engine plant manufactures Ingenium 2.0-litre petrol units.

Changshu is presently having its capacity raised to 210,000 vehicles a year. Chery and JLR are funding a new body shop and building a second trim line, Chen Xuefeng, the deputy president of Chery Jaguar Land Rover told the media in November 2016. It would be astonishing if the partners were not intending to add build of the F-PACE but so far, there has been no official statement over which models will be added following the expansion. 

It's not a premium priced model but just to show how mad for SUVs the Chinese have become, Great Wall Motor's Haval H6 shot up by 56 per cent YoY, its registrations reaching 580,683 units. That was enough to make it the country's number two best selling vehicle behind the Wuling Hongguang (650,018 - 1%).

Haval (2016 sales: 938,019: +42%) is now China's number nine brand and will likely overtake Ford (951,396: +9%), Nissan (1,000,986: +12%) and Toyota (1,064,705: +5%) in 2017. Even ChangAn, Honda, Hyundai and Buick look vulnerable if they don't better exploit the SUV boom. Volkswagen is too, despite 3,006,4008 deliveries in 2016, which was more than twice as many vehicles as second placed Buick delivered:  we are now into the second month of yet another year when there is no B segment VW SUV available in China (or Europe). Astonishing.

2017: off to a strong start in the UK

Back in the UK, Jaguar is having a great start to 2017, with sales of 2,694 cars and SUVs in January. For a make with only a small line-up, that's a very good result. Mercedes-Benz was the market leader last month, its sales totaling 13,048 (+11%), Audi came next with 11,676 (+1.4%), followed by BMW on 8,489 (+3%), then Land Rover (5,427, +18%) with Volvo being the only other premium make to be in four figures (2,795, -7%).

Some would define Mini as a premium brand, so it's worth seeing the brand's number, as it reinforces Jaguar's achievement: (2,280, -18%). And yes, you also did read that correctly in the previous paragraph: Jaguar was a mere 101 vehicles behind Volvo in Britain last month. It's going to be a fascinating year and already there are all manner of odd things going on, such as the C-Class being the UK's fourth best selling model in January (4,230 cars delivered, +40% and just 500 units behind the Focus) ahead of the Astra, Juke, Corsa and Qashqai.

Why is there no XF Sportbrake?

Just imagine what Jaguar could be achieving if it had one or two estates as well? The XE and XF would sell so much better were they available as Sportbrakes, especially in Germany, Italy and the UK. The XE was the brand's best seller in Germany during 2016, with 2,765 deliveries (+65%), followed by the F-PACE (2,349) and XF (1,997, +13%). Expect some big gains for the latter two, once supply of the F-PACE improves and the XF Sportbrake is added.

As has been observed in other pieces about Jaguar published here, it remains a mystery as to why there are no plans for an XE Sportbrake. An 'XC' or 'XD' in the Audi A3 Sportback's segment would be another potential strong seller and it will likely appear, eventually. For now, JLR has production capacity issues in England. 'D-PACE', a rebodying of L551, the next Range Rover Evoque, will likely be added to the Jaguar line-up in 2020 or 2021 ahead of a related C-hatchback in perhaps 2022.

Coming way before any of these potential additional vehicles is a second generation XF Sportbrake. Yet by the time this estate arrives, the saloon will have been on sale for two years. No doubt it was a case of too many cars in the development pipeline and not enough resources, so JLR can probably be forgiven for prioritising the likes of the F-PACE and soon to be revealed Land Rover L560. What some believe will be badged 'Range Rover Velar' will share much with the similarly sized F-PACE, giving JLR two bites of the D-premium SUV segment cherry from later in 2017.

MY2017 XF

A process of continuous improvements and additions is now one of the best things which JLR does after launching a model. So it is that before the XF Sportbrake arrives, the ground has already been prepared with some model year changes for the saloon. That has included the arrival of all-wheel drive derivatives and also of course, in China, of X261, the long-wheelbase car.

Since I drove a supercharged XF S sedan in Australia not too long after its worldwide launch, AWD in combination with the 134kW/180PS Ingenium diesel engine has been added to the line-up. This has a CO2 average of 104g/km. Don't think that low number is for some manual base variant which no-one buys: it applies to cars fitted with ZF's 8HP45 eight-speed automatic transmission. Jaguar is also offering this powertrain in the US as part of the 2017 model year XF range. In Federalised, ULEV II-compliant form, the 1,999cc four-cylinder diesel produces the same power and torque (431Nm) as the cars sold here in Europe.

Why aluminium platforms don't always mean light cars

The Ingenium might have the best numbers for a business user but it's lacking some brio, despite all of Jaguar's pronouncements about the XF being a lightweight car. In reality, this 4,953mm long sedan tips the scales at a minimum of 1,700kg and a fair bit more in higher model grades.

An aluminium platform can only do so much to reduce mass. It's often the case with E segment luxury cars that electrical convenience features and ever more safety equipment are to blame for weight creeping up towards the two-tonne mark. The top-end versions of the XF are nowhere near that level but this is a constant battle: we will keep seeing suppliers developing lighter seating systems, new types of glazing, and noise cancelling systems instead of added sound-deadening materials.

Even better than a 2.0-litre diesel: a 3.0-litre diesel

The 2.0-litre XF diesel takes 8.0 seconds to reach 62mph and its top speed is 195km/h (121mph) which, while competitive for the class, does tend to leave you wanting something more. I found that the 3.0-litre V6 was far more to my liking, its outputs of 221kW (300PS) and 700Nm of torque putting the XF TDV6 into a different league of performance. It doesn't have AWD but nonetheless, the car will reach 62mph in 6.2 seconds and the top speed is 250km/h (155mph). The CO2 figure is 144g/km and the Urban average of 42.8mpg proved to be a slightly worse number than the 44mpg which I saw. The base price in S trim is GBP49,995.

Still best in the E-premium segment?

Is the XF still the best in class which I rated it last year? BMW's new G30 sedan and G31 Touring 5 Series range has the potential to give the XF a real run for its money, while the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Volvo S90 & V90 are already proving to be formidable rivals. For me, the Jaguar remains the number one car but that estate needs to come soon or else Jaguar will lose the sales momentum which its dealers have worked so hard to create and maintain.