Land Rover in China

It’s no secret that China has surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest automotive market. Automobile sales in China for the month of June totaled 1,435,900 and total sales for the first six months of 2011 numbered 9,325,200 units. These staggering numbers are supported by China’s growing affluence, which has also increased the demand for luxury products. This demand is reflected by Jaguar Land Rover’s impressive sales growth in the country.

In July, JLR reported a significant increase of sales in China during first six months of the year. The company delivered 18,508 vehicles to China (or 18,598 depending on who you ask). Land Rover made up the bulk of these purchases by delivering 16,322 units, an increase of nearly 50 percent compared to the first six months of 2010. To put that in perspective, in 2010 Land Rover sold 31,864 units in the U.S. and for the first six months of 2011 sold 17,292 units, which is up 16% over 2010. Even with the sales increase in the U.S., China is in the passing lane.

Currently, China is Land Rover’s third-largest market after Britain and the United States. Looking at the numbers above, China is on schedule to become the company’s second largest market this year. The Range Rover Evoque will likely seal the deal, with an estimated 5,000+ orders having already been received from Chinese customers and delivery scheduled for this fall. It is also anticipated that China will eventually eclipse Britain as the number one market for Land Rover products. To help support this rapid growth, JLR plans to introduce an additional 40 dealerships in China by the end of 2011, for a total of 100 stores.

Sales are not the only plans Tata Motors has for China. The company has announced its intention to assemble vehicles in China for the local market, much in the same way it recently announced the Freelander would be assembled in India for the Indian market. This would allow JLR to tailor vehicles specifically suited for the Chinese market. At this time, no Chinese assembly partner has yet been selected.

The Land Rover Defender in China

On a final note, the emergence of China as a major market for Land Rover vehicles will surely factor into the fate of the Defender. Reworking the Defender to rest on a simplified Discovery/LR4 chassis might not even be necessary for the Chinese market. It is possible the current Defender could be assembled by a local manufacturer, much in the same way manufacturers in Mexico continued to produce the Volkswagen Beetle long after production ceased elsewhere. Mexico produced the old style Beetle with incremental improvements up until 2003. Anything is possible at this stage, and it certainly would not be the first time Land Rover licensed vehicle production to another country.

Land Rover China Web Site

[via China Daily, China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, Autocar, et al.]

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