Skip advert
Advertisement

"Jaguar Land Rover faces a big task in "reimagining" itself as a luxury brand"

Mike Rutherford takes a look at the current state of the UK’s remaining born-and-bred manufacturers

Opinion - Land Rover

On this, the final day of The British Motor Show long weekend (Thursday 18 – Sunday 21 August), there’s no better time to reflect on the state of our vehicle-producing nation and its surviving group of UK-born-and-bred manufacturers.

Officially, of all the makers here now (including the Japanese), five qualify as “mainstream” players, seven fall into “major premium and sports car” territory, and 60-plus produce “specialist” cars.

Of the survivors, I consider Aston Martin, Bentley, Jaguar, Land Rover, McLaren, MINI, Rolls-Royce and Vauxhall to be the big boys. But more stats, facts and rankings from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders put Aston, Bentley, McLaren and Rolls in the same second-tier, low-volume league as what I think of as the little guys – a group comprising the likes of Caterham, Ginetta, Lotus, Morgan, TVR (still going?) and about 20 others, some of whom do and say so little that I’ve barely heard of them.

Advertisement - Article continues below

How many of the above large, small, minuscule or one man and his dog-type operations make vehicles these days, and in what volumes, is unclear. They’re not all obliged to publish their numbers. Also, how much money – if any – are they making? And how much longer can they survive on low or no profits? Again the figures are often vague – or non-existent. 

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Thus far in 2022, the handful of home-grown British firms still with us, still producing and still solvent (hopefully) are experiencing mixed fortunes. Bentley is in rude health as it remains its usual, upmarket, true-luxury self and has recorded a 43 per cent year-on-year rise in registrations – while insisting it’s “the most sought-after luxury car brand in the world”.

It, plus arch-rival Aston Martin (which doesn’t publicly release official sales figures), are loudly and proudly flying the flag for themselves, their exclusively upmarket products, the workers and UK PLC at the USA’s Monterey Car Week this August. Good on ’em, I say.

But as they continue to go through the lengthy process of “reimagining” themselves, Jaguar (with UK sales plummeting 40 per cent this year) and Land Rover (down 30 per cent) are both sadly sagging and suffering in the showrooms – although much of that is down to this increasingly hi-tech firm struggling with the global microchip shortage.

MINI (down 1 per cent) and Vauxhall (down 11 per cent, but still producing the Corsa, Britain’s best-selling car) are both holding up comparatively well. But currently, all the major/well known British companies plus all the other minor or lesser-known firms are selling only around 10 per cent of the cars bought in Britain. And that’s not nearly enough.

JLR has to step up to the plate here. Maybe it’s time for the boardroom to drop its confusing “reimagining” mode and instead do more “reaccepting” of the fact that, in Jaguar and Land Rover, it has premium (and sometimes commercial), not luxury brands.

Genuine rivals are Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes, not Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce and Bentley (which I think sit in a comfortably higher league). It’s going to be a gargantuan task for JLR to “reimagine” itself as a luxury brand, no matter how good the cars are.

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know in the comments section below...

Skip advert
Advertisement
Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

Tesla slashes Supercharger membership cost with 42 sites now open to all EVs
Tesla Superchargers
News

Tesla slashes Supercharger membership cost with 42 sites now open to all EVs

Tesla has cut the costs of its Supercharger Membership, which grants access to lower charging rates, by £2 per month
19 Apr 2024
The average UK car is now 9 years old, as drivers delay replacements
Ford Fiesta Titanium front
News

The average UK car is now 9 years old, as drivers delay replacements

41.4 million vehicles are on the road, but they’re getting older faster than they’re getting cleaner
19 Apr 2024
Best small SUVs to buy 2024
Best small SUVs - header image
Best cars & vans

Best small SUVs to buy 2024

There's a huge range of small SUVs out there, so we’ve picked out the very best
19 Apr 2024