Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has said that China will soon overtake the UK as its leading market.
Sales in China rose to 42,000 – that is almost as many as it sold in China in every previous year put together. In fact JLR now accounts for 20% of all UK exports to China. Depending on how you look at it, that is either a fantastic tribute to JLR management, or a bit of an indictment of UK PLC. What are other big British-based companies doing about the world's fastest growing market?
The remarkable thing is that JLR is doing well in China without actually manufacturing any cars there. That means its products have to pay big import duties – an XJ saloon is around double what it costs here. JLR has announced a joint-venture factory in China with Chery, but that is not likely to come on stream until 2015. That means some very busy UK factories in the meantime, as the company wants to continue growing exports. Currently it is opening one new dealership every week in China.
In the long-term, JLR is likely to spend over £1 billion on its Chinese operation as it tries to go head-to-head with the three premium German brands. Certainly it now appears to be the only non-German premium brand with global credibility.