Jaguar has been buoyed by figures showing it bucked the UK slump in car sales by a wide margin last year as demand for the Castle Bromwich-built XF sports saloon defied the credit squeeze and the growing recession.
The car’s popularity helped the Jaguar Land Rover group - which is asking for government loans or loan guarantees at commercial rates to help restore its liquidity - to limit its overall sales decline in a rapidly falling market to 15 per cent last year, figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders showed.
Combined Jaguar Land Rover sales fell by 15 per cent to 52,913 units, a fall of 9,351 compared with 2007.
Behind those figures, however, the two brands are currently experiencing widely differing fortunes. While Jaguar’s UK sales rose by 8.73 per cent or 1,634 units to 20,346 units in 2008, Land Rover was 30 per cent, or 13,985 units, adrift at 32,567.
However, sales of commercial variants of some Land Rover models, which are collated separately, rose by four per cent to 4,227 vehicles which cuts the total fall in sales to 27.7 per cent.
And looking at Land Rover’s worldwide sales, the Lode Lane 4x4 specialist still had its third best year in its 60-year history, spokesman Mark Foster said.
Across the 160 or so countries to which Land Rover exports vehicles, sales were down by 17.7 per cent although numbers grew by 62 per cent in Russia, by 41 per cent in Brazil, by 69 per cent in China and by 16 per cent in Australia.
With demand ebbing for big sport utility vehicles (SUVs) such as Range Rover and Discovery, demand for Defender, the descendent of the first ever Land Rover, remained strong with model sales up by about ten per cent last year.
Jaguar ended the year with global sales of more than 65,000 cars, a rise of eight per cent over 2007.
“Despite the challenging economic conditions, Jaguar made great progress last year,” chief executive Mike O’Driscoll said. “Our cars are sold in more than 60 countries around the world and we’re proud of our success as a major exporter.”
Figures from the SMMT showed that both brands ended 2008 on a low note with Land Rover 44.72 per cent down in December and Jaguar 9.41 per cent adrift.
The SMMT said total UK sales fell by 11.3 per cent to 2,131,795 in 2008 compared with 2,404,007 and warned that this year could be very much worse as recession bites and the banks show little sign of restoring normal credit flows to manufacturers and car-buyers.
December sales were down by a better than expected 21.22 per cent at 108,691 units thanks mainly to the Government’s cut in VAT .
“The global economic downturn, precipitated by the crisis in international banking and financial sector, created unprecedented challenges for the UK automotive industry in 2008,” SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said.
“The measures taken by government to support the banking sector and kick-start demand have been necessary, but are not yet sufficient to restore confidence.
“Further action to ease access to finance and credit across the economy is essential if long-term damage to valuable industrial capability is to be avoided.”
Mr Everitt said 2009 will be “another difficult year for the UK automotive industry with new vehicle registrations and production significantly reduced”.
CBI director-general Richard Lambert said carmakers were a “vital and viable” element of the country’s manufacturing industry and needed especially urgent help in terms of credit.
“We are not calling for a bail-out, but for short-term help to get carmakers through a difficult time, otherwise this crucial part of the economy will incur lasting damage,” Mr Lambert added.