Land Rover  Discovery Sport arrives in January 2015Jaguar Land Rover saw out the old year with their annual end of year media event with only current Land/Range models available

for test driving at their gruelling off-road test centre at Eastnor Castle Herefordshire and Jaguar versions for road testing on the winding and hilly roads in the same county.

But its 2015 that counts for both brands as they launch new and important new models with potential to increase their sales. It’s just a pity JLR didn’t feel the need to showcase the vitally important volume sales new models – the Jaguar XE saloon and Land Rover Discovery Sport at their end of year driving review.

Jaguar will launch their ‘C-segment XE saloon in May priced from £26,995 and Land Rover launches the compact 5+2 seater SUV Discovery Sport 4x4 in January priced from £32,395.

Although JLR’s global sales increasing at a steady rate since its takeover by the Indian conglomerate TATA, both brands need a wider model range of fuel and tax efficient models to pay for the money spent developing new chassis technology, drivetrains, design and development facilities which include a new engine factory in Wolverhampton. UK sales are healthy with Jaguar registrations year-to-date up by 12% but Land Rover up by just 1.67% in a new car market up by 9%.

Predominately both brands currently sell to private customers with minimal fleet/user chooser business compared to their German premium brand rivals of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

In readiness for the arrival of the new models JLR have just announced a New Global Fleet Strategy programme to meet the needs of large fleets and company car drivers. By 2020 JLR estimates that up to 25% of its total global sales will be to the fleet and business sector.

2015 will be the most important year-to-date for both brands as they start their ambitious sales growth programme starting with the arrival of the most efficient production Land Rover ever - the Discovery Sport and the Jaguar XE four door saloon range which they claim has the lowest cost of ownership in the premium brand C-segment.

Jaguar XE Sports SaloonThe All-New Land Rover Discovery Sport
The Discovery Sport isn’t a direct replacement for the discontinued Freelander, in fact it uses much of the components of the Range Rover Evoque including its platform and rakish body styling including a clamshell bonnet and honeycomb styled grille. Inside much of the layout, controls and other components also seem to come from the Range Rover family. A new integral multi-link suspension is used which allows more space to accommodate the two small third row seats which can be pulled out of the floor of the 981-litre boot. The wheelbase is longer than that used for the Freelander although the overall length of the two vehicles is about the same at 4,590mm, a shade shorter than its main premium brand rivals – the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60.

The Discovery Sport is not a smaller version of the current larger Discovery, in fact the new compact model shows the design to be used for the new larger Discovery due probably in 2016 and also for a new generation of other Discovery family members yet to be announced.

At launch the Discovery Sport will be powered by the well known 2.2-litre, four cylinder, and 187bhp turbodiesel engine carried over from the Freelander and still used in the Evoque range. Later next year all-new JLR engines built at their new plant in Wolverhampton will join the range. A six speed manual gearbox is standard but the £1,800 optional nine-speed automatic will be the main choice. The newcomer uses a simplified version of Land/Range Rovers electronically controlled Terrain Response system where the driver can select between Normal. Mud, Sand, Ruts and Snow modes. There is also variable speed Hill Descent Control but unlike the current big Discovery there is no low range ratio transfer box, no locking differential and no MagneRide adaptive dampers for the suspension system.

According to Jess Rumboll, Press Offer for Land Rover UK, the new Discovery Sport is expected to become the brand’s second highest selling model range after the Evoque, a position held by the Freelander which was first launched in 1997 and has achieved over 950,000 global sales. Land/Range Rover global sales last year were 348,338 vehicles.

As far as sales numbers for the Discovery Sport for the UK, no figures were forthcoming but Ms Rumboll said currently 80% of the interest for the new Disco Sport is from newcomers to the brand. She added that over 5,000 global orders had so far been received half of which are from the UK and this country is the first market to get the Halewood Plant produced range where it is built on the same production lines as the Range Rover Evoque and replacing the defunct Freelander.

The All-New Jaguar XE Saloon
Orders books are open for the new XE saloon range which replaces their compact executive X-Type range which was discontinued in 2009. The all new lightweight XE priced from £26,995 is designed with low running costs to compete against the premium brand Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class but competitors will also include similar sized models from Lexus, Infiniti and Volvo.

Whilst Jaguar models have predominately been sold to private buyers and business user-choosers, fleet sales for the new range are high on Jaguar’s global sales agenda and John Morgan, Jaguar’s UK Product Press Officer said the intention is for XE to double Jaguar’s sales.

He added that in the past Jaguar has enjoyed a strong retail customer following but growth has to be achieved from the fleet market sector although retail customers are expected to slightly outnumber fleet sales. No sales predictions are being made at this stage he said.

He added that 2015 is the 80th anniversary year of Jaguar car production and potentially it will be the most important year ever for the brand with the launch of the XE with first customer deliveries starting in May. As to the future he said that we have 50 ‘product actions’ (new model introductions and updates) scheduled from 2015 to 2020 as the brand moves to being a major global supplier of premium cars. Following the introduction of the XE saloon the next major addition to the Jaguar line-up next year will be all-wheel drive versions of the F-Type Coupe and Roadster. Asked if Estate or Sportbrake XE models will join the expanding line – “nothing planned” was the answer. But watch this space and there is already media speculation that the XE could be the basis for a compact Jaguar SUV.

The Jaguar XE will initially be available with 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines plus a 3.0-litre V6 supercharged petrol unit. The all-new 2.0-litre turbodiesel 160bhp Ingenium engine built in the new Wolverhampton engine plant produces just 99g/km of CO2 emissions in manual transmission form and costs £29,775 so it will be the most popular choice especially for their targeted new audience of fleet buyers. The 2.0-litre petrol models start from £26,995 and the top of the range 3.0-ltre V6 supercharged 335bhp petrol unit tops out the range at £44,870.

Due to its new platform and aluminium architecture the XE is projected to be light and nimble in the handling department with low running costs and already Jaguar claim its residual values are stronger at 45% retained value over 3-years/30,000 miles than its key competitors.

Jaguar Land Rover UK Managing Director Jeremy Hicks said, “This is a car that will appeal to the head just as much as the heart.”  Miles Better News Agency

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