Various factors will slow growth of Ford’s British nameplates in the US this year, though sales of Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin cars have more than doubled in the last two years, Reuters said, citing a senior company official.


“What I see this year is very modest growth overall,” Mike O’Driscoll, North American president of Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin, told Reuters at the Detroit motor show. He said a more competitive US vehicle industry was one thing likely to slow the UK marques’ sales.


But Reuters said that O’Driscoll stressed that the trio of companies was also reaching the culmination of a product-led growth spurt, fuelled by a series of recent new vehicle launches.


Joint US sales of the three brands, which operate as part of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, have jumped from 45,000 units in 2000 to 102,000 last year, Reuters noted.


O’Driscoll told Reuters the companies were gaining the momentum and brand recognition needed to compete against bigger luxury brands such as BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Lexus.


“At 45,000 we were certainly a niche player, but at 102,000 we’re starting to build that critical mass that’s so important to our future,” O’Driscoll told Reuters.


Reuters said that, in the past year, Land Rover has unveiled a redesigned Range Rover sport utility vehicle, updated the Discovery and added the small Freelander SUV to its US model lines while Jaguar will start selling an updated version of its XJ luxury sedan in a few months.


Reuters also noted that Aston Martin won some ‘bragging rights’ at the show on Monday by rolling out a new sports car, the AMV8 Vantage, aimed at stealing share from Porsche’s highly profitable 911 coupe.


O’Driscoll told Reuters that the luxury two-seater, due to go into production in the fall of 2004, was just one “hot new tool” likely to win share for Aston Martin and its fellow, Ford-controlled British car brands.


O’Driscoll also told Reuters that the brands themselves already account for a full 10% of British exports to the US market, which made them key to Britain, as well as Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford.


“We’re the largest British exporter to the US with annual exports in excess of $US4 billion,” O’Driscoll told Reuters. “We’re not only a significant revenue earner as far as the UK are concerned, I think also we’re a very visible beachhead,” he added, according to the report.