Jaguar C-X17 crossover unveiled ahead of Frankfurt Motor Show

The C-X17 has been created as a design The C-X17 has been created as a design study to introduce Jaguar's all-new advanced aluminum architecture. The C-X17 concept is one example of the diversity of vehicles that could be produced using the new architecture. Photo Credit: Jaguar

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Jaguar, Tata Motors Ltd.’s high-end British car brand, unveiled the C-X17 small sport-utility vehicle prototype in a bid to challenge Bayerische Motoren Werke AG for mainstream luxury-auto buyers.

The crossover, being introduced at the International Auto Show in Frankfurt this month, is based on a new architecture that will provide the underpinnings for a series of vehicles, the Whitley, England-based manufacturer said. The first car based on the technology will be a mid-sized sedan in 2015, as the brand seeks to broaden its appeal.

“With this technical foundation, we will dramatically expand Jaguar’s product offering, market potential and customer appeal,” Adrian Hallmark, head of the Jaguar brand for Tata’s Jaguar Land Rover unit, said today at a presentation in downtown Frankfurt. “This new philosophy will bring technology from our luxury products into an accessible price segment.”

Jaguar, which sells just one car for every 20 vehicles delivered globally by Munich-based BMW, offers just four models in the U.S., none of them an SUV. BMW has four crossovers as part of its range of 11 vehicle lines. The British nameplate is now mounting a challenge to its German rivals after helping its image in recent years with cars like the $69,000 F-Type roadster.

“They need an anchor vehicle, like a Mercedes C-Class or BMW 3-Series, something a bit more attainable for luxury buyers,” said Jessica Caldwell, a senior industry analyst for Edmunds.com, which tracks U.S. auto sales. “Now is really good time” for Jaguar to enter the segment.

Customer Retention

A limited model range has held back Jaguar’s efforts to attract new buyers and hold on to existing ones. This year, about 24 percent of people who traded in a Jaguar in the U.S. bought a car from another brand, according to industry data tracker Edmunds.com. The retention rate was 37 percent for BMW and 45 percent for Volkswagen AG’s Audi division and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz brand.

Jaguar’s cheapest car is the XF sedan, which starts at $46,975, while BMW offers the $30,800 X1 SUV and Mercedes sells the $29,900 CLA four-door compact coupe. A broader lineup could help Jaguar gain ground as luxury-car buyers look for alternatives to the near-ubiquitous German producers.

“There are a number of customers who don’t want a German luxury car and may opt for a Jaguar or a Land Rover,” said Juergen Maier, a Vienna-based fund manager at Raiffeisen Capital Management, which oversees about $1.1 billion in emerging-market assets, including shares in Tata Motors. “Overall, I’m quite confident on Jaguar Land Rover.”

Tata’s Takeover

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Jaguar said the new technology will allow it to offer vehicles capable of top speeds of more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) per hour and emit less than 100 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer.

Jaguar and SUV manufacturer Land Rover, which Mumbai-based Tata Motors bought from Ford Motor Co. in 2008, have become critical for the Indian manufacturer of the budget Nano car. Jaguar Land Rover accounted for 72 percent of group revenue and 88 percent of operating profit for the year ended March 31.

While Land Rover sales have surged 67 percent over the past four years because of the popularity of SUVs, especially the urban-focused Evoque, Jaguar is still looking for a breakthrough, with deliveries 18 percent lower than in 2008, according to data from IHS Automotive research company. Boosted by new models, sales are forecast to more than triple to 162,000 vehicles by 2016, IHS estimates.

Fill Gaps

“Jaguar Land Rover is still a long way away from the three German luxury-car makers,” said Ashvin Chotai, managing director of Intelligence Automotive Asia in London. “They need to fill the gaps with low-risk models and use their R&D budget in the best possible way.”

Improved quality and sharper design have already won over customers like Chris Williams, a long-time BMW driver who bought a Jaguar XF in 2009.

"I wanted something a little more unique, something a little less volume-oriented,” said the 53-year-old marketing consultant from Bernardsville, N.J. On top of better quality rankings for the brand from J.D. Power, the XF has “a sexy, exotic look to it.”

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