Bruce Robertson, managing director, Jaguar Land Rover Middle East, has declared that the pioneering car manufacturer firmly believes that electrification is the key to the future. ArabWheels managed to secure an exclusive interview with the charismatic Jaguar Land Rover managing director at the bi-annual Dubai International Motor Show, held at the Dubai World Trade Center.
In a fascinating and insightful interview, Robertson discussed the performance of Jaguar Land Rover in the region over the last twelve months and its strategic approach to electrification. In addition to this, he highlighted Jaguar Land Rover’s exciting array of new products and its participation in the Formula E championship.
In what is a tough Middle East market, how would you describe Jaguar’s performance in the region in 2017?
It’s been very positive. It’s been driven primarily by the fact we’ve introduced the F-PACE and that’s been a big success for us. In addition to this, we’re bringing the F-TYPE 2.0 to market, so our projections through the back end of the year are looking really positive. We’re also introducing the E-PACE at the beginning of next year. So, if we look at the calendar position, we’re relatively comfortable with our performance in 2017, but it has been a tough year. The whole market is down between 10 to 16 percent, but I think it’s actually down more than that due to the level of export that is being done. From a Jaguar perspective, would we like to have done more? Of course we would have. But I think in terms of the realistic position of the marketplace we’re in a good position. We also launched the XE this year and it has done really well for us in certain markets. In North Africa it proved extremely popular with our customers, and it also performed reasonably well in Kuwait. We’re starting to pick up parts of the market where we weren’t competitive before, so overall I think we’ve enjoyed a measured performance this year in the Middle East region.
What is Jaguar’s best-selling model in the Middle East?
At the moment, our best-selling Jaguar model is the F-PACE. It’s taken the market by storm, and the introduction of the 2.0-liter gives us an opportunity to spread the range much wider. The introduction of the E-PACE, which is the baby CUV we’ve launched, will be available in early 2018, and we envisage that this will also be a big hit with our customers. We’re getting into an environment where we’re competing at a price point from about 150,000 AED, roughly, which expands our market position. So where are we going in the future? Most probably F-PACE, E-PACE in the fastest growing segments of the market, which is small compact SUVs.
Are you planning to unify all your dealers’ showrooms in order to have the same architecture?
Globally, and within the Middle East, apart from two markets we have all showrooms and service facilities as Jaguar Land Rover. The two markets where we operate separately are in Kuwait and Lebanon. They’re the only two markets where we operate separately and we’ve got no plans to join those two together at the moment. The grand architecture and grand design is such that Jaguar Land Rover will be sold from one facility in markets where we’re able to do it. So, you just have to look at our new arch facilities globally-they are stunning. This year we’ve opened 17 new arch facilities in the region, in what is a very tough current economic environment, and on the back of people not getting their returns out of the businesses that they’re used to, they’re still investing millions to effectively drive the brand forward.
The Jaguar I-PACE is being tipped to rival the Tesla Model X. Do you think it will have a big impact with your customer base in the Middle East?
I think it depends on where you are in the Middle East at the moment. If you look at places like Jordan, electrification is supported because of their high import duties. They’ve also announced 3,000 charging points across the country as part of a new government initiative. I think more needs to be done by governments in the region. I think Dubai is leading the way, but the psyche and the mentality of the people’s orientation towards ICE engines in this market is far greater, and the propensity to spend on bigger engines is more so here than anywhere else in the world, even in the U.S. Our cars will be tested here to perform here. We believe electrification is the key to the future. I do think it will take a while for people to come to terms with what electrification is in the Middle East and in emerging markets. You need to have the infrastructure, if there’s no infrastructure you can’t do a quick charge on a car, it takes eight hours. The Jaguar I-PACE will have a range of 500 kilometers-and the average person isn’t going to drive more than 100 kilometers per day. So, effectively you’ve got three days without even worrying about needing to charge the car. All our new facilities will have the infrastructure to support electrification, that is a minimum requirement, but getting the power there is a discussion we need to have.
Can you tell us about Jaguar’s participation in the Formula E championship?
We’ve been in the E championship now for the last two seasons, and next year we’ve got Bruno Senna driving for us and he’s ex-world champion in the E-Series. For us it’s a key to effectively develop our products. The technology that comes out of this process enables us to move it into our vehicles relatively quickly. We can make learnings from it in areas such as battery usage, technology and recharging. We remain committed to the series, and the I-TYPE racing vehicle, which we recently announced, will look fantastic. So we’re fully committed to the electrification racing series, and it’s also good to see the other manufacturers coming onboard.
Can you outline to us your primary objectives and aims in the Middle East region for 2018?
We’ve got an exciting product portfolio that we showcased here at the Dubai International Motor Show. Selling cars is one thing, providing premium customer service is another. I can sell you a car, but if you don’t come back then it’s no good. For us, the way we train our importers, the way we work with them, the way we train our staff, the way we design our products, key customer satisfaction, is the way to go. We need to be better than our competitors to drive the retention business, and once you get retention in your business to create an opportunity, that’s where organic growth comes from and that enables us to focus our efforts to grow our business elsewhere. We’re quietly optimistic about 2018, we’re confident, given the new products we’re introducing, that in the next twelve months, Jaguar will continue its growth in the market.