Merseyside-produced Evoque offers chink of light as JLR sales plummet

Indian-owned carmaker, which employs more than 4,000 people in Halewood assembling the Evoque and the Discovery Sport models, said April sales were down 13.3%. Tony McDonough reports

JLR
Jaguar Land Rover employs more than 4,000 people at Halewood

 

Carmaker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is reporting another plunge in sales amid speculation the business may be sold to French Group PSA.

JLR, which employs more than 4,000 people in Halewood in Merseyside assembling the Evoque and the Discovery Sport models, said on retail sales in April 2019 were 39,185 vehicles, down 13.3% compared to April 2018.

However, sales of the new Evoque, which started rolling off the Halewood production line earlier this year, have been “encouraging”, one of the few bright spots in an otherwise gloomy sales picture for the company.

Retail sales were up again in the UK (12.1%) and in North America (9.6%), but were offset by lower sales in China (-45.7%) and in overseas markets (-22.3%) with sales in Europe also down (-5.5%).

Jaguar retail sales in April 2019 were 11,462 vehicles, down 13.7% year-on-year and Land Rover retailed 27,723 vehicles, down 13.1% compared to April 2018. Total sales for the year to date stand at 198,101 vehicles, a fall on 9% on the same period in 2018.

Tough month

Felix Brautigam, JLR’s chief commercial officer, said: “Although this was a tough month for us due to continuing pressures in China, we are delighted to see good growth in the UK and the US.

“Once again we strongly outperformed the UK market and the US marked its best ever April sales. This reflects the strength of our brands and continued demand for our unique and evolving product line-up.

“This month was a historic milestone for Jaguar, with the all-electric Jaguar I-PACE winning an extraordinary hat trick of awards – the 2019 World Car of the Year, World Car Design of the Year and World Green Car – which no car has ever done before.”

Sale rumours

Late last week, JLR was forced to deny persistent rumours that it was about to be sold to PSA PSA Group, the French owner of Peugeot.

Should such a deal materialise it would mean both of Liverpool city region’s car plants – JLR’s factory in Halewood and the Vauxhall site at Ellesmere Port – would come under the same ownership with total employee numbers of more than 5,000.

It has emerged that a so-called ‘post-sale integration document’ has been seen by senior executives at both companies examining the potential benefits of a merger between the two automotive giants.

PSA, which owns the Peugeot, Citroen and Vauxhall brands, has said it is “open to all opportunities that would create value on a long-term basis” but denied any deal to acquire JLR was imminent.

JLR’s India-based owner, Tata Motors, also dismissed widespread reports of a deal, saying: “As a matter of policy, we do not comment on media speculation. But we can confirm there is no truth to these rumours.”

Range Rover Evoque
Jaguar Land Rover has invested £110m at Halewood for the new generation Range Rover Evoque

 

New investment

Tata acquired JLR from from US automaker Ford in 2008 in a deal worth more than £1bn and has invested significant sums in its UK operations since. It also operates two car assembly plants in the West Midlands.

Halewood has been a major beneficiary of that investment has seen seen models such as the Evoque, Freelander and Discovery Sport models come to the plant with employee numbers rising from 1,500 to more than 4,000 today.

In the last 12 months JLR has invested another £110m in the factory so it can assemble the new generation Evoque and production started earlier this years.

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