Sales are booming for Tata Motors’ Jaguar Land Rover in India, up a staggering 164% last year, although that is only 1,800 vehicles so there’s still some work to do.

Rohit Suri, managing director of JLT India, is still pleased with the progress.

“We have come from a very low base,” he said, and both brands are still very new to India even though JLR is now owned by an Indian company.

By contrast, market leader BMW, which sold 10,000 cars in India last year, has been in the country since 2005 while second placed Mercedes-Benz entered even earlier in 1997. Third-placed Audi arrived in 2007.

Suri added: “You also have to note that JLR does not have a car the size of the BMW 3-series or Mercedes C-class and this segment accounts for 40-50% of the premium market in India.”

He is confident that JLR can pass Audi and take third place soon because there is plenty of growth to come in the luxury segment and the Range Rover Evoque is yet to be launched here.

“It’s a status thing,” Suri said. “People don’t buy the Land Rover Discovery or Freelander, or a Range Rover for their functionality or off-road ability but for the status.”

With the Freelander now assembled in India at Pune, does this help push the brand? “Not as much as you might think,” he said. “The real USP is the fact that Jaguars and Land Rovers are British. That really plays well with consumers here.”

Suri is cautiously optimistic about the future and he has every reason to be in India with sales of 2.5m cars last year and growth of 30% over 2010.

That’s despite a bit of a slow down towards the end of 2011 due to interest rate hikes and more expensive finance.

JLR currently has 13 dealers in India but 11 more will be named this year.

Suri added: “We still have work to do in getting brand messages across and expanding the dealer network will help this. We have also established a small Land Rover Experience centre in the Punjab [region] which allows us to show customers just what our cars can do.”