India might be Jaguar Land Rover’s second home, JLR boss Ralf Speth’s own words, but for a home market JLR haven’t really set the sales charts on fire. To start with JLR took inordinately long to set up their Indian assembly operations and even now local assembly is confined to five models. Contrast with Mercedes-Benz that, save for the AMGs and special models, locally assembles every single car and SUV that it sells in India – a major factor attributed towards its market leadership. The result has been that JLR cars and SUVs have always been more expensive than their rivals and even though the desirability around the British cars and SUVs has been sky high, the affordability factor has been the speed breaker that has seen it lag behind the German three.
Except two major shifts happened this year which have dramatically changed the game for JLR India. Actually three – the most important of which has been a renewed focus on India from the headquarters. Last year JLR’s India operations, which used to be under Tata Motors’ premium car division, was spun off into an independent national sales office, reporting into the UK head office and that has sharpened focus on India. Then came Brexit and the crash of the British pound. Next was GST and a reduction in taxes on luxury cars (which the government has threatened to revise). And before all that was the Supreme Court raging against and banning two-litre diesels in the national capital region, the biggest market for luxury cars.
Brexit and GST have reduced, on average, prices by at least 15 per cent across the range. At the top of the pyramid, prices for the Range Rover have come down by a whopping 50 lakh rupees while the Range Rover Sport too has been repositioned, prices dropping by 30 lakh rupees and reviving demand.
Meanwhile the policy issues threatening diesels and a realisation of the increasing demand for petrols (which was once barely 5 per cent for luxury SUVs and 15 per cent for luxury cars but is increasing rapidly) brought in a strong focus on petrol engines. That is the big enabler for a strong entry pricing for the fifth-generation Discovery 5. The V6 335bhp petrol starts at Rs 68 lakh making the Discovery 5 the most affordable full-size 7-seater luxury SUV in the country. To be clear the V6 diesel is, spec-for-spec, 15 lakh rupees more expensive than the Q7 but the key takeaway is that Land Rovers are no longer prohibitively expensive. The same petrol story will hold true for the Range Rover Velar when it is launched in October, where we expect the four-cylinder petrol to be competitively priced at Rs 75 lakh with the HSE spec, expected to get the most volumes, priced at Rs 85 lakh.
Currently generating strong volumes for JLR are the Discovery Sport and Evoque, both of which are locally assembled, both of which are well under 50 lakh rupees, and combined volumes of which are ahead of the competition. At Rs 40 lakh the Discovery Sport undercuts its main rivals, the GLC and X3, while at Rs 49.4 lakh for the 5+2 seater (it’s not a full size 7-seater like the Discovery 5) is the most affordable 7-seater in its class. Both the Discovery Sport and the Evoque now also get petrol motors which again undercut the competition.
The price equation, along with that of Jaguar’s cars, is detailed in more depth in the adjoining charts but pricing is just one part of the puzzle. To get more customers to experience what Land Rovers and Range Rovers can actually do, the Land Rover Experience Tour events have been ramped up to 13 proper off-road events this year, conducted by the man behind the Indian edition of the Rainforest Challenge, Ashish Gupta. Meanwhile the new Jaguar Art of Performance Tour has an even larger calendar of 32 events spread across the country, with the performance driving events conducted by former racer Rayomand Banajee. And to address concerns that JLR vehicles are expensive to maintain, there’s a flat 50 per cent off on the 5-year service plan.
The initiatives are claimed to have accelerated demand and Rohit Suri, boss of JLR India, is bullish on the future. “The Jaguar and Land Rover brands enjoy a very strong and aspirational brand position and we are seeing a strong demand momentum build up for both the brands.”