Photographer: Barry Hayden

Jaguar Closes on Porsche in the Race for Swanky Sales

With Ford ownership in its rear-view mirror, the British brand is setting sales records every month.

After 95 years, Jaguar appears to have finally found its footing. 

The British brand’s sinuous early models—as sexy as anything on wheels at the time—had a reputation for being unreliable. More recently, Jags were tainted by Ford Motor Co. and a quest for corporate synergies (read: parts-swapping). These days however, as Ford makes plans to idle factories, Jaguar can’t seem to make vehicles fast enough. 

With a tide of capital from parent Tata Motors and a fully overhauled product-line, Jaguar is even nipping at the heels of mighty Porsche when it comes to U.S. sales. In the first four months of the year, American drivers rolled out of dealerships with 14,606 Jags, more than double the number purchased in the year-earlier period. 

The difference has been a new Jaguar SUV, the athletic F-Pace, and a starter sports sedan, the XE—neither of which were available in early 2016. The F-Pace outsold Porsche’s Cayenne this year to date and closely trailed the German brand’s smaller SUV, the Macan. (All is not good news though in the big cat’s race to catch Porsche: Jaguar’s stunning sports car, the F-Type, is doing only half the business of the storied 911.)

Jaguar F-Pace SUV auto sales Tata

The Jaguar F-Pace SUV has helped the brand find a whole new gear in sales.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

However, Volkswagen, Porsche’s parent, likely isn’t too concerned about its crown jewel getting dinged. Porsche sales have increased slightly in the first four months of the year and continue to spin off some of the best profit metrics in the business. Sliding into a bare-bones 911 still requires at least $91,100—about $30,000 more than the starting sticker on an F-Type. 

If any sleep is being lost in Germany, it’s likely at Mercedes headquarters or down the autobahn at BMW. Those companies are far larger and far more reliant on volume. The auto industry is undoubtedly cooling: U.S. sales have declined for four consecutive months as demand wanes and financing tightens up. But like an overheated engine, it’s not cooling uniformly. 

Lincoln, for example, managed a 6 percent sales gain in the first four months of the year. GMC, the upscale truck division of General Motors Co., is up 7.3 percent and Volkswagen’s Audi posted a 7.7 percent increase in that period. But as Ford and Chevrolet draw up plans to idle plants this summer, Jaguar and Porsche continue to accelerate.

These winning brands have a few things in common. All of them are selling sharp, new SUVs and all of them luxury—or what auto-executives call “near luxury.” The people kicking the tires on a $45,000 GMC Acadia Denali are more likely to have a different economic situation than those testing the $29,000 Chevrolet Traverse. Financing for GMC faithful is probably less of a stretch. 

Finally, these vehicles still aren’t ubiquitous on U.S. roads. The downside to a car-buying frenzy like the one America has seen over the past few years is ubiquity. A customer who doesn’t want to be common can no longer turn to Jeep or even Mercedes. A Jaguar, however, is still tough to spot in the wild—at least for now.

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