Jaguar provided a rare ray of sunshine on a dark day for the car industry with figures showing that sales of its Birmingham-built XF sports saloon are still racing ahead.
The Big Cat’s October sales performance, however, was in stark contrast to its sister company Land Rover which slumped by more than half as demand for 4x4s crashed.
Trade figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders showed that Jaguar sold 1,404 cars last month, 22.41 per cent more than in October last year, while on a year to date basis, sales were 11.17 per cent ahead at 18,450.
The news came on a day it emerged that total UK sales slumped by 23 per cent in October, the worst monthly fall since June 1991.
Much of Jaguar’s improvement is due to heavy demand for the award-winning XF which has established itself as one of the best-selling Jaguars since its launched in March.
With a number 2010 model in the pipeline, culminating with the launch of a new flagship XJ saloon late next year, Jaguar expects to produce about 80,000 cars next year compared with some 70,000 in 2008.
XF production volumes, however, are expected to reduce in the coming months as Jaguar polishes off a big advance order book.
Land Rover sales fell by 58 per cent to just 1,283 vehicles in October and were 27 per cent down over the first ten months of the year.
Land Rover spokesman Mark Foster said: “We know we have got customers who want vehicles but the availability of credit is sometimes making it very difficult for them to go through with the purchase. There is a continuing uncertainty and volatility in the market which is making people hold off from committing themselves.
“There is no doubt that the next 18 months are going to be extremely difficult – this is a global economic downturn.”
But Mr Foster said Land Rover was well placed to prosper in overseas markets.
“We export to over 160 countries and we are still seeing growth in markets like China, Brazil, Russia, the Middle East and North Africa,” he said.
“Although the UK is our biggest market, you cannot get too obsessed by one month, one market. Four out of every five Land Rovers built go overseas.”
The Jaguar Land Rover sales figures came just days after the company, now owned by Tata Motors of India, announced a further 400 manufacturing redundancies at its three assembly plants, bringing total job losses to 600.
Despite slumping car markets in the UK, the US and western Europe, the West Midland automotive sector is in comparatively good shape to survive the downturn, former trade minister Lord Jones of Birmingham said.
“This year is going to be very, very difficult for all of the consumer-facing economy," he said. "But in the West Midlands the value-added car makers such as Jaguar and Land Rover are better equipped because they sell around the world.
“The car industry in the region is in better shape to deal with this situation.”