Land Rover powered to record sales in the US market for the six month running in March, figures released by parent group Ford showed last night.

But there was more disappointment for Jaguar as its sales slumped by nearly half to fall below 2,000.

Despite the starkly contrasting fortunes of its British luxury marques, Ford was breathing a sigh of relief after limiting the plunge in sales in its home market last month to under five per cent.

Reports mid-month suggested that the US was taking another cold bath, with some estimates claiming the percentage sales fall could be in double digits.

In fact, the Blue Oval company sold a total of 291,146 cars and trucks, 4.6 per cent down on the same month last year and 2.6 per cent down on the year to date.

There was no doubting the sense of celebration at Lode Lane as Land Rover digested news that its previously unheard of sales success was still in top gear.

"It was a pretty impressive month for us in the US," spokesman Mark Foster said. "We have just completed not only our best month but also our best quarter."

Total Land Rover sales soared by 39.3 per cent to 4,153 from 2,982 in the same month last year.

Measured over the first three months of 2005, sales were 33.8 per cent ahead at 11,299 versus 8,344.

The luxury Range Rover had a record month, putting on 14.3 per cent to bring its sales to 991, while its first quarter performance was 9.8 per cent ahead at 2,762. The Solihull company was especially encouraged by the success of the new Range Rover Sport, which shows signs of forging head in the high performance segment of the off-road market.

A total of 1,667 left the showrooms in March and 4,329 were sold in the first three months of the year.

Because the Sport has been on the market for less than a year, comparative figures have not yet started to filter through.

Land Rover executives are believed to be pleased, and perhaps not a little relieved, to find that the Sport is doing well without taking sales off Range Rover.

On the other hand there were signs that the sales curve for the successful third generation Discovery, badged LR3 in America, was flattening out with a 71.1 per cent decline last month.

The company would not speculate on forthcoming figures for the UK and western European markets, but it is believed that these will reflect its strong showing in the US.

Jaguar meanwhile saw its sales plummet by 47.4 per cent to 1,866 in March and by 41.2 per cent to 5,124 for the quarter.

All four models suffered double digit percentage falls, with the Liverpool-built X-Type doing worst of all with a decline of 64.2 per cent.

Jaguar bossess remain adamant that the company - which is finding the ultra-competitive luxury car market tough going - is not in crisis and that they are chasing buyers of their higher margin models rather than volumes.

They say sales figures will begin to rebound once the new XK sports car, which has a strong forward order book, begins to leave the showrooms.