July 2011 marked the start of a new era for Jaguar Land Rover with the launch of the Evoque, a vehicle that has redefined the brand and propelled profits into the stratosphere. Enda Mullen finds out just what a difference a year has made.
In some ways it’s hard to believe the Range Rover Evoque is a year old. It’s a car that still looks avant garde and cutting edge and even a year on is still often referred to as the “new Land Rover”.
But it has proved to be far more than just another new model and its arrival on the scene has been nothing short of transformational for JLR.
Not only has it reinforced JLR’s continued rise to see it compete as a genuine equal with established premium brands like Mercedes, BMW and Audi but it has contributed hugely to the firm’s record profits of £1.5 billion this year.
While JLR was in a healthy state at the time of its launch, the Evoque has taken the company to new heights with more than 80,000 sales in just nine months.
It is overseas where most Evoques end up – 75 per cent of Evoques are exported to 170 different markets – and it is estimated to have generated an estimated £2 billion in annual export value for the UK.
It is in emerging markets where it has had a huge impact too.
China has been tipped by some to become JLR’s biggest market in 2012, overtaking the UK and the US and so far this year the firm would seem to be well on course to achieving that.
Although the Chinese car market has slowed slightly JLR has maintained growth and it is the Evoque that is the pace-setter. Total sales for the firm in China from January to the end of June were 36,451, around double the number of cars sold during the same period in 2011.
Land Rover accounted for the lion’s share of sales with 32,177 vehicles and Evoque sales on their own represented almost a third of that figure with more than 10,000 sold in China so far this year.
JLR continues to open Chinese dealerships at a rapid rate and the firm has announced a joint venture with Chery Automotive to build cars in China, though initially the Evoque is unlikely to be produced there.
Recent reports from China suggest the joint venture has gained official approval from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and is awaiting certification from the National Development and Reform Commission.
The Evoque Midas touch would certainly seem to be a world away from the dark days appealing for emergency loans to stay afloat and warning of potential plant closures.
The funding gap was plugged and the company performed a remarkable u-turn after it was set to close one of its three UK plants.
US sales, too, continue to be buoyant, where again it is the Evoque leading the charge. June sales in the US were up by two per cent compared with 2011, thanks in large part to the Evoque.
Looking at Land Rover in isolation it enjoyed a sales surge of 14 per cent thanks in large part to the Evoque.
The car’s appeal to US buyers shows no signs of waning and its continued success follows on from being declared the North American Truck of the Year.
At Haleword in Merseyside, where the Evoque is made, the firm recently celebrated the car’s first birthday.
Signs of its prospective success were evident from the outset – with 18,000 advance orders received.
And it has gone on to claim a raft of awards – 110 in total – including the Top Gear Magazine Car of the Year and World Design Car of the Year.
The Evoque has also transformed the Halewood production plant. In advance of its launch the workforce was increased to more than 3,000 employees and in March JLR announced it would recruit a further 1,000 employees to help deliver the increased volume of both Evoque and Land Rover Freelander 2, which is also manufactured at Halewood.
In just three years the workforce has trebled and the plant now employs more than 4,000 people.
Halewood operations director Richard Else, said: “The Evoque is an incredibly exciting vehicle that continues to turn heads. Sales remain strong across all markets and at the plant we’re working hard to meet demand.”
The Evoque has also proved a hit in other parts of the world.
Robin Colgan, managing director of Jaguar Land Rover Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan said: “I firmly believe the Evoque is proof of Land Rover’s historic ability to constantly innovate and define new segments and I’m pleased to say it has received an overwhelmingly positive response from our customers.
“Land Rover has always been very popular in this region and the success of Evoque reflects the position of the brand here.”