dealers’ profitability being recognized through heavily contented vehicles that the luxury consumers desire. As a result, this segment is more niche, with lower volumes, hence lower sales as a result,” Samara adds. Unlike Conyers, David Stephens (Jaguar’s first black dealer under FMC’s ownership and BE’s 2001 AUTO DEALER OF THE YEAR) has managed to weather the storm, beating the odds. Since opening his suburban Jaguar store in Dallas in 1999, he has sustained profitability every year without the benefit of the Land Rover brand, focusing on service operations and selling used luxury vehicles, Stephens says.
Although the single-point store has been profitable, Stephens says, “I haven’t made a profit from the new car department selling Jaguars since 2004.” According to the National Automobile Dealer Association’s latest statistics, the average new car dealer in 2006 didn’t turn a profit in the new car department. Thus, industry analysts believe this further emphasizes the competitive nature of the industry and why so many dealers such as Stephens are selling their vehicles at or below invoice. Overall, unlike make industry analysts, Samara really doesn’t see the past few years as being a sales decline, noting that the company started out repositioning just over two years to have much smaller volumes based on a smaller range of cars. “This began with the new [Jaguar] XK and will be reinforced with the all-new [Jaguar] XF (replacing the S-Type),” Samara says. “Jaguar has no ambitions today to be a major-volume car manufacturer in the U.S. or around the world. It’s a luxury brand that offers the exclusivity of beautiful fast cars.”
Despite Jaguar’s past troubles, the cat seems to be coming alive again. The all-new $50,000 XF, the least expensive vehicle in the brand’s lineup, has single-handily reversed Jaguar’s 4-year sales slide. Thanks to the XF, Jaguar posted a year-to-year monthly sales increase in March and April. In fact, as the overall U.S. automotive industry sales declined 6.8% in April from a year ago and consumers shifted toward more fuel-efficient, economical, 4-cylinder vehicles, Jaguar’s sales soared 25.4% during the month from the previous year. It was the highest increase of any brand, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
Despite recent sales figures, many auto analysts and industry critics believe the corporation’s new mission statement is contrary to their philosophy of becoming a volume automaker several years earlier. Many minority dealers would have avoided risking the investment had they known of Jaguar’s current sales strategy.