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.