Jaguar Land Rover drives to success in Japan

Jaguar Land Rover drives to success in Japan Magnus Hansson, Representative Director and CEO of Jaguar Land Rover Japan

TOKYO —

Two of the most iconic British automobile brands on Japan’s roads are Jaguar and Land Rover. After Tata Motors acquired Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford in 2008, it merged the two marques into a single company and its turnaround has been a remarkable success story for the British company.

Currently the UK’s largest automotive manufacturing business, Jaguar Land Rover has an extensive overseas presence, including Japan where the company is enjoying good growth.

Overseeing operations in Japan is Magnus Hansson, who took up the position of Representative Director and CEO of Jaguar Land Rover Japan last November. Born in Sweden, Hansson began his career with Saab in 2000. Before arriving in Japan, he has worked in Sweden, Canada and Hong Kong.

Japan Today editor Chris Betros visits Hansson at the Jaguar Land Rover Japan offices in Toranomon to hear more.

How was 2013 for the company?

2013 was an incredible year for us globally and in Japan as well. In Japan, we sold 4,214 units in 2013, increasing 56% over 2012. As you know, Tata bought the brands in 2008, and at that time, the company was written off. But the turnaround has been incredible. 

What are the best-sellers for you in Japan?

For Land Rover, it is the Evoque and in the Jaguar line, the most popular is the XF.

How would you describe the image of the two brands among Japanese consumers?

Jaguar is seen as refined British elegance with a sporty heritage. Land Rover is the world’s leading niche premium SUV crossover manufacturer. Consumers know it as an original, authentic outdoor off-road brand.

Is brand loyalty strong in Japan?

Our customers have remained loyal to the brands over the years, especially to Jaguar, which is more exclusive. It has never been and will never be for everybody. Jaguar attracts people who make a conscientious choice of car, probably more men than women. So we have seen a high level of loyalty and passion among owners. With Land Rover, newer lines have gone to a bit more hybrid territory. They are urban vehicles with off-road features and a niche choice for buyers.

What is your marketing strategy?

I often tell dealers that this business is not just about selling cars. We are selling a dream, a vision – the car delivers that. The choice a customer makes is based on who he or she is. They pick a brand for a number of emotional reasons. The starting point for our marketing strategy is to understand who our likely targets are. Our cars are not a choice for everybody and are not supposed to be. So we look at what makes us great, what makes us different, relevant. Based on that, we formulate the message, the media mix and the right way to package what we are trying to say.

How is the media mix changing?

If you are telling a story and it is about positioning your brand, making it relevant and come to life, you need moving screens. That used to mean just TV but today, it means TV, cinema, tablets and the whole digital spectrum.

What are some characteristics unique to the Japanese market?

Japanese buyers, even in a premium category, expect extremely high standards for technical quality and mechanical engineering because they have been spoiled by the excellence of Japanese companies. They cannot expect less. Another area is customer service. They expect to be able to personalize their car, express their individualism. Colors differ here, too. Overseas, buyers go for silver, black and white but here, they take their passion to a different level and dare to pick colors like orange or yellow.

Japanese brands tend to release new models every few months, but foreign automakers do not. Why do you think that is?

Japanese brands’ selling proposition is different. It is more of a rational proposition about transportation. You have seven companies competing for segments where price and fuel economy are the real differentiators. The only way to stay ahead is by spitting out new models. But they don’t completely change cars. The Western philosophy, right or wrong, is you make a brand new car and it is in the market for 5-6 years; then you make another brand new car, whereas the Japanese will change parts of the cars every two years. After six years, the car is virtually brand new. So what they call new models are what we’d call facelifts.

What new models have you introduced in the Japanese market?

We launched a new Range Rover Sport last December – it’s something between a big Range Rover and the Evoque. We are getting ready to launch the second variant of the Jaguar F-TYPE in June. Last year, we launched a convertible; this year it will be a coupe.

Tell us about your dealer network.

We have 34 dealers. The brands used to be separate dealers but they are now consolidated. It is a solid number and gives us good coverage across Japan.

What is the waiting time for a car?

Production is going great right now with three shifts seven days a week. In our most successful models, like Range Rover Sport, depending on which engine you pick, it could be six to 10 months waiting time.

Is there a market in Japan for used vehicles?

There is a big market for used cars. We still see a lot of our cars from 10-12 years ago being serviced and maintained.

How many employees do you have?

Here we have 53 staff; 33 directly employed by us while other operations such as after sales, are outsourced.

What areas of the business are you hands-on?

I am a very passionate marketeer and product guy. I am hands on with presentations, and do a lot of that on weekends.

What’s a typical day for you?

I come to the office around 9 a.m. I try to spend one day a week out meeting dealers. I really love doing that. The dealers meet the customers every day and you have to hear from them what customers like, what’s working and what we can do better.

What are you currently driving?

I drive a Jaguar XJ. When my family arrives, I’ll be using a Range Rover.

How do you like to relax?

I’m big on music and I love sports. I play tennis and love ice hockey. I also got very interested in baseball when I was in North America. Another thing is I love reading about science and history.

  • 2

    Pandabelle

    I bet they are making money, given how poor the reputation for quality is for both brands. Dealers love making money off service.

    Jaguar especially has quite poor resale value in Japan - it's shocking how cheap a 5 year old Jag goes for. Check it out on Goo.

  • -5

    Reckless

    absolute worst drivers in japan drive rovers, jaguars, bmw, mercedes, volvo and the other crap,,, almost as bad as the dudes driving prius.

  • 0

    SenseNotSoCommon

    They pick a brand for a number of emotional reasons

    Insecurity for a start. And make it LHD, please. 外車!外車!

  • 3

    Cliffy

    Land Rover is owned by India now. I owned a Land Rover before and I vow to never buy another one. Totally unreliable and spent its time in the garage being worked on rather than on a road and I bought it brand new. That pretty much explains why you do not see an LR on the road that often - in a shop getting fixed.

  • 0

    sensei258

    I learned how to drive a stick in a Land Rover. I enjoyed driving it around Europe.

  • 1

    SwissToni

    Don't know why they say Tata merged the businesses, Jag Land Rover were together long before Ford sold them. The great thing Tata did was to free the businesses from debt and let them spend money on development.

  • 1

    timtak

    I liked the look of the estate/(station) wagon "Jaguar XF Sportsbreak" that I saw on the roads recently http://jp.autoblog.com/2014/02/27/jaguar-xfr-s-sportbrake-geneva-official/ but they are all a lot more than 1200 man yen, or several times the price of a Subaru Impreza or Legacy.

    I think that Mr. Hansson has the right strategy "We are selling a dream, a vision – the car delivers that." vs "Japanese brands’ selling proposition is different. It is more of a rational proposition about transportation. "

    I don't doubt the effectiveness of selling dreams. There was a Jaguar sales room on my commute to primary school with the picture of the back of a primary school child looking at a shiny Jaguar, with the caption, "One day, one day." And now 40 years later, (damn that poster!) I will be buying another Subaru or even a Kia c'eed...

  • 0

    Harry_Gatto

    I would not have announced a 6 to 10 month lead time. Let the customer find that out in the showroom when his dream car (or one like it) is in front of him and the papers are ready to be signed.

  • 3

    Thunderbird2

    First vehicle I was ever allowed to drive was a British Army Series 3 Land Rover around a field. I can still remember the smell of the canvas roof, the PVC seats and those wonderful ratchets on the air vents under the windscreen. Happy days.

  • -2

    wtfjapan

    Landrovers are snot, just a yuppies 4x4 for the city. take them off road and they fall apart. Landcruiser is the best offroad 4 x 4 there is. my father has owned 1 (different models) for the last 30years and it hes never had any major breakages. and he goes offroading in some extreme places. and they have excellent resale value. very popular in Russia Middle East. ask any Russian and they tell you only Toyota can handle the extreme winters, and the Arabs that they can handle the extreme heat/sand. and I know many Russians, Pakistanis, Arabs, in the auto industry they almost all say Landcruiser by far.

  • 1

    MiuraAnjin

    As the Ozzies say, If you want to drive in to the Outback, get a Land Rover. But if you want to drive in to the Outback and drive back out again, Get a Land Cruiser.

  • -1

    SenseNotSoCommon

    @Harry_Gatto,

    The lead time is a clever way to recruit new mugs, sorry clients. Nothing excites the insecure quite like scarcity.

  • 0

    motytrah

    A Brit friend of mine loved to restore old Range Rovers. He used to joke, "Why don't the British make computers anymore? They couldn't figure out a way to make them leak oil."

  • 2

    shinhiyata

    I've had both a Jaguar and a Land Rover. They remind me of my ex-wife: Gorgeous to look at on the outside, wonderful driving experience once you get inside, but prone to extended fits of fiery unpredictability.

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