Friday, November 13, 2015

Jaguar Land Rover lays out big lunch, promises green cars in less than 5 years

Joe Eberhardt, right, president and CEO of Jaguar Land Rover North America, answering questions from Scotty Reiss, president of the International Motor Press Association, after a lunch in midtown Manhattan on Thursday.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

When I was a newspaper reporter covering auto importers based in northern New Jersey, Jaguar's luxury sedans and powerful sports cars were known as unreliable.

In fact, I recall writing a business story about Jaguar, based then in Leonia, identifying the car as the most accurate winter thermometer ever -- it would start at 33 degrees, but not below that temperature.

That was 30 years ago, but Jaguar Land Rover CEO Joe Eberhardt said on Wednesday the perception of unreliability still dogs the British marque.

That may be why Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles sell in such small numbers in the United States -- fewer than 68,000 units so far in 2015.

On Wednesday, Eberhardt bought a big lunch for 60 members of the International Motor Press Association, and announced new vehicles, lower MSRPs and other incentives to boost sales in the U.S.

And he said that to meet more stringent government gas-mileage standards on the horizon, the automaker plans to introduce such alternative power trains as hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles within five years.

They couldn't come too soon given all of those enormous, gas-guzzling Range Rovers that are driven so aggressively in North Jersey's suburbs, most with a single occupant.

Eberhardt was asked to compare the company's previous owner, Ford Motor Co., to the current owner, Tata Motors of India, once a British colony.

He said Tata has provided the cash Jaguar Land Rover needs to develop new models and stay competitive.

ESI and the Teamsters

One of the tables on Thursday was occupied by managers of Event Solutions International, a fleet-management company.

ESI drivers deliver complimentary press vehicles from Jaguar, Land Rover and most other carmakers to auto writers in the Northeast.

ESI, now based in Somerset, N.J., has battled the Teamsters for about two years after the union organized drivers and promised them higher wages.

But some of the drivers, blaming the union for inaction, petitioned successfully for dissolution of the collective-bargaining agreement.

The average pay for drivers remains at about $12 an hour.


Among new models are the Jaguar XE compact luxury sedan and the F-Pace performance crossover, both in the 2017 model year.

Jaguar Land Rover, now based in Mahwah, N.J., is owned by Tata Motors, India's biggest automobile manufacturer, so look for snarling Jaguars in Bollywood movies.

Jaguar Land Rover treated members of the International Motor Press Association to an open bar and a delicious lunch, including falafel, mozzarella and tomatoes, shrimp ceviche, asparagus, guacamole, fresh fish, roasted chicken, fruit and an array of rich desserts.