China has swiftly become Tata Motors' luxury car unit Jaguar Land Rover’s largest market following two years of solid growth, according to country chief Bob Grace.
He told China Daily: “Two years ago when I came here, our business in China was not in the top five. Look at any business metric - China is (now) Number 1. Quite honestly, it has only just started, so there is still a lot of adventure up ahead."
Grace told the newspaper that JLR delivered about 60,000 Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles - solely imports - in China between January and October this year, up almost 90% year on year.
The company's full-year 2010 sales in China were around 26,000, rising to over 42,000 last year.
Grace said he has had more new experiences in his last 27 months in China than in all the rest of his career added together. He added that the luxury car market in the country will maintain strong growth next year, possibly doubling the estimated rate for the overall industry of 6-10%, with the luxury SUV segment growing even more.
JLR has launched an apprentice training programme in partnership with a local polytechnic school in Guangzhou. It has enrolled 40 students to train as auto technicians.
The company also has apprentice programs with local schools in Beijing, Shanghai and Xi'an, to train future technicians. By 2015, more than 450 students are expected to graduate from the programme and will receive priority in working at JLR dealerships across the country.
Grace said that JLR is expanding its presence in southern China which now accounts for nearly 14% of the company’s sales nationwide. And the number is expected to grow "quite significantly".
It has signed nearly 30 dealers in southern China, half of them now operational, with the rest to follow in the next six months.
JLR’s joint venture with domestic carmaker Chery, which plans to produce vehicles in Changshu, Jiangsu province, finally received approval from the National Development and Reform Commission last week.
The plant will have a designed capacity to make 130,000 vehicles and the same number of engines per year, according to the official announcement on the NDRC website.