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All-electric Jaguar XJ uncertain for Australia

Electrifying: Jaguar confirmed last month that the next-generation XJ limousine will be available in all-electric form.

Next XJ limo’s business case still undecided as JLR calls for government incentives

20 Aug 2019

JAGUAR Land Rover (JLR) may not import the incoming all-electric XJ limousine to Australia after it is unveiled globally next year – at least until a solid and viable business case can be built for it.


With electric vehicle sales still at the embryonic level in Australia and government support and incentives almost negligible compared to many other markets around the world, JLR Australia managing director Mark Cameron is unsure that offering the next XJ would be the most prudent step to make, particularly in light of heavy financial losses and subsequent restructuring at the British car-maker.


Asked if the all-electric XJ was guaranteed to come to Australia, Mr Cameron told GoAuto: “No. To be honest, we haven’t made the decision yet. While we’ve publicly announced we’re going to build that car, the business case for Australia is still being developed. But I’d love to bring it in.


“I think we’ve been pretty brave with I-Pace (all-electric SUV launched last year). And let’s be honest, Australia isn’t an as yet developed EV market for various reasons. We could have easily said, ‘Actually, let’s hold fire as some of the other brands have and not bring that car into Australia right now.’”


Despite the cautious approach, Mr Cameron did reveal that his team is exploring all avenues to help bring the all-electric XJ to Australia and that the landscape is changing all the time, adding that such a move would have long-term benefits for the brand in this market.


“You have to start somewhere,” he said. “And if you look at Jaguar’s history, where in its great days it’s where it’s been its most innovative and the leader, and (the I-Pace) has been absolutely the right thing to do, and we’re absolutely selling the right numbers that we planned for Australia.


“Whether in a category like the XJ, that gives us a market opportunity in Australia – it’s a completely different question.


“But we’re talking about every month or six months that go by, things are going further, and we’ve yet to see some of our traditional competitors come into the market in Australia.


“I think when they do, the market will expand and I’m confident there will be some government policy on a state or federal level to provide some encouragement to consider and buy electric cars.


“There’s going to be a tipping point at some point, but we haven’t reached it yet. I’d love to bring XJ and other future electric cars into Australia, but there’s got to be a business case, because the cost of bringing a car in and supporting it, marketing it and stocking it are all important considerations.”


Mr Cameron was also hopeful that luxury sedan sales will eventually stabilise, leaving a reduced but still sizeable market out there that needs to be serviced – particularly in prosperous built-up areas where commutes are short and thus suitable to EV driving.


“The (flagship sedan) segment has been traditionally under pressure, but I think the sedan share of the market is probably going to plateau now,” he said. “It might still decline a little bit more, but I still think there are enough people who want that type of car.


“The question is, if you provide that car – and a really good example is people who live and work in cities where their commutes are maybe 20, 30 or 40 kilometres per day, they want the luxury, the comfort, the environmental credentials of that type of car – you can see there being a market. But we need Australia to develop a little bit further in terms of the fundamentals for electric cars to grow more.”


Mr Cameron did admit that he was watching incoming competitors like the Porsche Taycan very closely before pushing the green button on the all-electric XJ.


“As more choice becomes available, there will be more consumer pressure for government to do something,” he said. “This tipping point can come quite quickly. As we’ve seen in other markets, where all you need is a change in taxation or preferential benefits to drivers, and suddenly there is latent (demand).


“From I-Pace, for example, we know the interest we get from people going to its website is very high and that’s not yet converting to sales, but if you use that as a measure of interest and intrigue, and the number of people coming into dealers and just having a look at the car and wanting to drive the car, we are in an education phase about electric cars and not just about selling an I-Pace and XJ. But there is definitely a latent and developing customer demand there.


“Being first is good. Sometimes being a fast follower is also good. If you can develop product solutions and technologies that are true to what your brand stands for, and you think you can develop a business case, then why wouldn’t you. And being first is always good because you get the headlines and kudos for doing that.”


Confirmed in early July as the existing model’s production ceased, the ninth-generation XJ will be built from an as-yet-disclosed date at Castle Bromwich plant in the UK and will initially launch as an all-electric proposition using the company’s next-generation Modular Longitudinal Architecture (MLA) that will underpin its upcoming range of EVs.


Hybrid versions are also said to be in the works for the flagship Jaguar sedan.


Existing XJ sales remain miniscule, with just 19 units recorded last year in Australia compared to 284 Mercedes-Benz S-Classes and an estimated several hundred examples of the Tesla Model S.


Meanwhile, since launching in the final quarter of last year, 143 I-Pace EVs have been sold in Australia to the end of July. With 103 of these taking place this year, it represents just over 6.5 per cent of the 1570 all-electric/plug-in vehicles sold over the same period.

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