Sales of the new Range Rover Evoque, assembled in Halewood, have soared 25% over the past year but the coronavirus has sent Jaguar Land Rover sales tumbling. Tony McDonough reports
Sales of the Merseyside-produced Range Rover Evoque have soared 25% in the past year, new figures show, although Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is reporting an overall sales slump due to coronavirus.
JLR has published its sales figures for the 12 months to March 31, 2020. During the 12-month period the company sold 508,659 vehicles, down 12.1% on 2018/19. Sales in the three months to March 31 totalled 109,869 vehicles – down 30.9% year-on-year.
The company operates three manufacturing sites in the UK – two in the West Midlands and at Halewood in Merseyside where around 4,000 workers assemble the Range Rover Evoque and the Land Rover Discovery Sport.
On April 20, JLR shut down production at Halewood on the advice of the NHS and Public Health England. They originally scheduled a return this week but the majority of its production workers are now furloughed, with 80% of their wages paid by the Government. There are a handful of critical maintenance staff still on site.
The COVID-19 pandemic took a grip in China during January and spread across the world over subsequent weeks, leading to public lockdowns in many countries. This has had a devastating impact on both automotive production and sales.
Prior to the pandemic JLR was on track with its turnaround strategy and had enjoyed a return to profitability and sales growth. The continuing uncertainty over coronavirus will be a huge setback for the business.
Due to the January to March slump, JLR is reporting annual sales falls in all of its markets – North America (7.5% down on record prior year), China (8.9%), UK (9.6%), Europe (16.1%) and overseas (20.3%).
China had generated double digit growth in Q2 and Q3 and, with lockdown measures easing, nearly all of the company’s retailers in the region have now reopened and sales are recovering.
Despite the impact of coronavirus, retail sales of the new Range Rover Evoque, produced at Halewood, were up 24.7% year-on-year and sales of the all-electric Jaguar I-PACE increased 40.0%. The very first sales of the new Land Rover Defender also took place in the fourth quarter.
JLR says it is tightly managing all other costs and investments as well as working capital. It will be reporting audited results for the financial year ended March 31, 2020, at a later date but ended this financial year with £3.6bn of cash and short-term investments (unaudited) and an undrawn revolving credit facility of £1.9bn.
Felix Brautigam, a JLR’s chief commercial officer, said: “2019/20 has been a year of unprecedented disruption for the automotive sector. Despite the impact of regulatory change, shifting consumer tastes, Brexit and ongoing trade tensions, sales for JLR were showing improvement until the coronavirus pandemic hit in the fourth quarter.
“Demand has been particularly strong for the new Range Rover Evoque with sales up nearly 25% year-on-year. And we will soon offer highly competitive plug-in hybrid versions of both the Evoque and the Land Rover Discovery Sport.”