JLR sees sales fall, but Halewood model proves an ever-popular choice

The new Range Rover Evoque

Luxury car maker Jaguar Land Rover reported steep falls in annual vehicle sales, due to the coronavirus pandemic, although the Merseyside-built Range Rover Evoque was one of its best sellers, it revealed.

JLR retail sales for 2019/20 were 508,659 vehicles, down 12.1% on 2018/19, primarily as a result of the coronavirus pandemic significantly impacting sales in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year.

The company’s total retail sales for the quarter ending March 31, 2020 were 109,869 vehicles, down 30.9% compared with the same period last year.

Fiscal 2019/20 sales have been impacted across all regions with lower sales in North America (7.5% down on record prior year), China (8.9%), UK (9.6%), Europe (16.1%) and overseas (20.3%).

China had generated double digit growth in the second and third quarters and, with lockdown measures easing, nearly all of the company’s retailers in the region have now reopened and sales are recovering.

Despite the impact of coronavirus, retail sales of the new Range Rover Evoque, built at the Halewood plant in South Liverpool, were up 24.7% year-on-year and sales of the all-electric Jaguar I-PACE increased 40%.

The very first sales of the new Land Rover Defender also took place in the fourth quarter.

In light of the ongoing coronavirus situation, JLR has temporarily suspended production at its facilities outside China.

In addition, the company is tightly managing all other costs and investments as well as working capital.

JLR will be reporting audited results for the financial year ended March 31, 2020, at a later date, but ended this financial year with £3.6bn of cash and short-term investments (unaudited) and an undrawn revolving credit facility of £1.9bn.

The company is rigorously following the guidance of all the relevant authorities in the countries in which it operates and said it will work towards a phased return to production as soon as conditions permit.

This will include implementing robust screening protocols to best practice standards.

Felix Brautigam, JLR chief commercial officer, said: “2019/20 has been a year of unprecedented disruption for the automotive sector.

“Despite the impact of regulatory change, shifting consumer tastes, Brexit and ongoing trade tensions, sales for Jaguar and Land Rover were showing improvement until the coronavirus pandemic hit in the fourth quarter.

“Through the year, our diverse portfolio of Jaguar sports cars, SUVs, sedans and crossover vehicles continued to excite customers across the globe.

“Most recently, we launched our new, more assertive, Jaguar F-TYPE to very positive customer and media response.

“With the increasing demand for alternative powertrains, we were pleased to see sustained growth in sales of the multiple award-winning Jaguar I-PACE, the world’s first all-electric performance SUV from an established brand.

“We were also encouraged by the ongoing strength of our existing vehicles and the positive reception for our latest models.

“Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, for example, retain their appeal thanks to regular updates such as plug-in hybrid technology.

“Demand has been particularly strong for the new Range Rover Evoque with sales up nearly 25% year-on-year.

“And we will soon offer highly competitive plug-in hybrid versions of both the Evoque and the Land Rover Discovery Sport.”

He added: “2019 saw us unveil the all-new Land Rover Defender, the world’s most iconic 4×4, reimagined for the 21st century. There has been unprecedented interest in our most capable Land Rover ever.”

Meanwhile, JLR has furloughed up to 20,000 staff – half its entire UK workforce.

The company said it has “furloughed all roles that are not critical during this temporary period of disruption” caused by the outbreak of COVID-19.

The manufacturer also said that its leadership team and board would be deferring salary payments for three months, starting in May.

JLR ceased production at its three manufacturing sites in Halewood and the West Midlands last month, and said the shutdown will continue “for a few more week”.

A company statement said: “At Jaguar Land Rover, the health of our employees is our primary concern. We continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and follow the guidance of all relevant authorities.

“Our manufacturing sites are on a controlled stop and continue to adhere to government advice.

“Against the backdrop of rapidly changing circumstances, we have decided to extend the controlled stop at our plants for a few more weeks.

“We are working towards an orderly return to production as soon as conditions permit.

“We are operating in line with advice from the NHS and Public Health England to minimise the spread of the coronavirus while implementing plans to safeguard our business continuity.”

JLR said it is doing whatever it can to support its communities through the current situation.

To date, this has included the deployment of more than 300 Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles around the world to organisations such as the Red Cross and other emergency services.

The new Defender, for example, has gone straight into action to reach vulnerable people.

The company has offered its research, engineering and manufacturing expertise to support the development of medical and personal protective equipment.

It has recently started production and delivery of NHS-approved protective visors for frontline medical staff to answer the government call for more vital equipment to fight coronavirus.

The reusable face visors are being manufactured at JLR’s rapid prototype 3-D printing facility, one of the most advanced in Europe.

The company is also encouraging its employees to get involved with national and local community efforts to support the vulnerable and in need, including the call for Volunteer Responders in the UK and all round the world.

And trade union Unite has welcomed an agreement with one of JLR Halewood’s components suppliers, Plastic Omnium, in Warrington, to furlough workers on full pay during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Under the job retention scheme, workers can receive 80% of their wages from the Government, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

The agreement with Plastic Omnium means the company will meet the cost of an additional 20% for around 150 full-time workers to bring them up to 100% of pay.

Plastic Omnium is a major supplier of exterior components to automotive clients including JLR.

Unite regional officer Julie Burgess said: “This is an excellent deal for the workforce at Plastic Omnium in Warrington which supplies JLR in Halewood.

“The company has agreed to top up the Government’s job retention scheme to give the full-time workforce their full pay.

“It shows what’s possible where there is a strong union in the workplace and a company that is prepared to take their responsibilities to staff seriously.”