Published on September 6th, 2018 | by Subhash Nair


Why Land Rover Succeeds While Jaguar Fails

In this industry, brand partnerships, alliances, collaborations and relationships are unavoidable.

Jaguar and Land Rover have historically been very closely linked, but I can’t think of a more perfect fit in terms of premium positioning.

Both are British brands that are known for being exceptional in some regard. This makes it easier for marketing to push the brand values in a certain direction. For Jaguar, exclusivity, agility, sensuous design. For Land Rover, ruggedness, a sense of adventure, and flat and rigid design.

Customers will also attach what they think of ‘British’ values onto both brands. Maybe you’re from a former colony and all you can remember is the sense of entitlement it must take to claim the entire world as part of your empire. Maybe you’re a proud commonwealth citizen who sees the British as a polite, resourceful, resilient and industrious island-nation.

Let’s assume that because Jaguar and Land Rover share resources, the quality and construction of their products are not dissimilar. They share a lot of engines and components. In essence, let’s assume that they are treated as equals by their owners, Tata. So, paying RM200,000 for a Jaguar or RM200,000 for a Land Rover SHOULD give you a relatively equivalent feeling machine, all things considered.

So, why is it that Land Rover’s a successful brand while Jaguar struggles to stay relevant?

In 2017, Jaguar sold 178,601 cars while Land Rover sold over 442,508! Land Rover, despite sharing so much, is more than 100% more successful than her sister brand. Why is this? Is it just the fact that SUVs are more popular nowadays? Maybe.

To me, it’s really about starting point competitors. Jaguar may have always been about luxury, but you have way too many older players with the same starting point/heritage.

Mercedes-Benz, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, etc. While Rolls and Bentley went up to (what i call) the billionaire’s club, Jaguar has had to fight the larger sales volume battle along with Benz and ‘newer’ premium players like BMW, Volvo, Audi. And you also have others moving in to crowd the space like Lexus, Infiniti, Acura, Genesis, Tesla.

Land Rover, on the other hand started off as a hardcore off-roader brand, with little regard for luxury. Early Defenders (that were sold until 2016) were rough, tough, and smelled like diesel. It was only under BMW ownership in the early 2000s when the product portfolio began to seriously become polished and pricey. But looking at Land Rover’s true heritage as a maker of off-roaders, there’s only one other brand that can take it on – JEEP.

And when you’re positioning your brand to look like a slice of premium pie, a British heritage automatically makes you look more sophisticated than an American one. All Land Rover has to do is keep the product appealing, competent and competitively priced and they will win the sales game every time.

Their biggest problem is that just about every premium brand now offers an SUV. The moment they stop pushing the ‘rugged off-roader’ aspect of the brand, they might lose their biggest advantage, but so far so good.

Also consider this: like Porsche, Land Rover’s lower sales numbers allow it to transcend into the billionaire’s club by virtue of it having its own unique ‘premium off-roader’ image.

Solution for Jaguar

It’s not easy to distinguish your brand when your portfolio literally mirrors that of your biggest competitors.

Think about just one of their competitors, Mercedes-Benz. Jaguar has an answer to every Benz ‘limousine’. The C-Class has the XE. The E-Class has the XF. The S-Class has the XJ. Jaguar sold 178,601 cars in 2017? Benz sold 2.4 million cars in 2017. There’s just no way to overcome an advantage like that. You will not have the marketing budget to put up enough ads. You will not have the scale to bring better prices for better products.

What should have been done? Well, hindsight is always 20:20. But the way I see Jaguar, they may have had some potential to climb up a wrung into the billionaire’s club.

What’s stopping Jaguar from doing more of this?

Historically they have made iconic sports cars and sedans too. They could have been the ones to bridge the gap between Aston Martin (a successful modern British marque focusing on supercars and grand tourers) and Bentley (a successful British marque that focuses on large sedans and now SUVs).

What’s stopping them from doing THIS too?

They could have done the low-volume, high-margin game and offered smaller cars to the same people who drive full-spec Range Rovers. For people who appreciate what a Rolls-Royce Phantom represents but wants something that’s sportier and more practical to drive.

Instead, they’ve put themselves right in the line of fire of all the other premium, aspirational brands and simply have to get down and dirty for scraps.

About the Author

Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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