JLR hails sales improvement but warns on continuing ‘chip’ shortages

Thierry Bolloré

Jaguar Land Rover retail sales for the three month period to June 30, 2021 were significantly up year-on-year.

However, the company said this was despite a shortage of computer ‘chips’ used in assembly which it anticipates will continue until at least the second half of the financial year.

The luxury car maker, which has manufacturing plants at Halewood, Merseyside, and Castle Bromwich and Solihull in the West Midlands, said the first quarter figures reflect the continuing recovery in demand from the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly compared with a year ago.

However, wholesale sales, in particular, were lower than demand would have permitted due to semiconductor supply issues affecting the global auto industry.

Retail sales for the first quarter were 124,537 vehicles, 68.1% higher than the 74,067 vehicles sold in the same quarter last year.

Retails were higher year-on-year in every key region including in the UK (+186.9%), Europe (+124.0%), overseas (+71.0%), North America (+50.5%) and China (+14.0%).

Retail sales of all models, other than Jaguar XE, were higher year-on-year and sales of the new Land Rover Defender continued to climb with 17,194 vehicles retailed in the first quarter.

Wholesales were 84,442 units in the quarter – excluding the China joint venture – up 72.6% year-on-year. However, this was about 30,000 units lower, approximately 27%, than otherwise would have been planned as a result of semiconductor supply constraints and the impacts of COVID-19, although this reduction had been broadly anticipated.

Chief executive, Thierry Bolloré, said: “We are pleased to see the gradual economic recovery from the pandemic with customers returning to our showrooms driving double digit year-on-year sales growth in all regions, demonstrating the continuing appeal of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles.

“While the present semiconductor supply shortages continue to be a challenge for the industry, we are encouraged by the strong demand we see for our vehicles.”

At the end of the period the company had about £3.7bn of cash and short term investments (unaudited). Based on this and broadly in line with expectations, given the supply constraints, the company expects to report a cash outflow of about £1bn with a negative EBIT margin for the quarter.

Total liquidity at the end of the first quarter was more than £5.6bn including a £1.9bn undrawn committed credit facility.

Looking ahead, the manufacturer said the chip shortage is presently very dynamic and difficult to forecast. Based on recent input from suppliers, it now expects chip supply shortages in the second quarter ended September 30, 2021, to be greater than in the first quarter, potentially resulting in wholesale volumes about 50% lower than planned, although the business is continuing to work to mitigate this.

It expects the situation will start to improve in the second half of the financial year. However, the broader underlying structural capacity issues will only be resolved as supplier investment in new capacities comes online over the next 12-18 months and so JLR expects some level of shortages will continue through to the end of the year and beyond.

While the present supply constraints continue, the company will continue to prioritise production of higher margin vehicles for the chip supply available as well as make chip and product specification changes where possible to reduce the impact.

In this scenario JLR expects an operating cash outflow of about £1bn with a negative EBIT margin in the second quarter and a substantial improvement in underlying operating cashflow in the second half of the financial year as chip supply improves.

Encouragingly, the company continues to see strong demand for its products when semiconductor supply ultimately improves.

JLR presently has about 110,000 global retail orders, the highest in the history of the company, representing three months of sales cover, with five months in Europe and four months in the UK. Orders for the Defender alone total over 29,000, representing more than four months cover.

Thierry Bolloré said: “The present semiconductor supply issues represent a significant near term challenge for the industry which will take time to work through, but we are encouraged by the strong demand we see for when supply recovers.

“We are taking strong steps to ensure the security of our supply chain for the future, working with our suppliers and chip manufacturers directly to increase the visibility and control over the chip supply for our vehicles.”