“We don’t want to be driven by volume. It’s not the measure of success for a premium brand,” he said. “We want to build great cars and make money, not just shift units. “It’s more about profit, delivering that and having a sustainable business model. Not just business profits, but added value for the brand as well as the company.”
JLR was hit particularly hard by falling sales in China. Its sales fell 22% there in 2018. Sales of premium rivals BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi rose in China in 2018, with JLR’s drop put down to quality issues and an unruly dealer network.
Protesters complaining about the quality of their cars have been a regular feature at JLR’s Shanghai HQ and it’s understood that JLR is awash with models on airfields in the UK that had been destined for China but can’t be sold there due to quality reasons, although no one in the company will confirm this.
However, Bräutigam said there are now the “green shoots” of a recovery in China – a claim backed up by sales in the country rising 24.3% year-on-year between July and September this year.
He said: “We worked intensively with the retailers. There was room for improvement to get them on the highest level.”
He added that JLR will no longer discount models in China. “China is now focused on price, and being aggressive on price,” he said, adding that JLR will not join the price war breaking out.
“What we do right and wrong now will influence us in China for the next 15-20 years,” he said. “I feel we’re gaining traction and getting better in sync to the market, but it’s still declining [as a whole] and facing headwinds on a macro level. It’d be nice if we had a tailwind but it’s a tough environment. We got on the treadmill, got leaner and Charge and Accelerate got us fitter and on a good path.”
Although Bräutigam said there is still plenty of room for China to grow again (“In a country of 1.4bn people, there are roughly 150 cars per 1000 people. It’s 800-900 per 1000 in the US and 500-600 per 1000 in Europe”), it will also be the most competitively and aggressively fought market.
“We could fight for market share at a cost, but we could instead entice people into some niches, and then not discount, and say that’s the price,” he said.
The company has protected investment in product development and, to that end, is instead committed to developing more electric cars. An all-electric Jaguar XJ will join the I-Pace next year, with a sibling model for the Range Rover line-up following hot on the XJ’s heels as Land Rover’s first electric car.