Jaguar Armed With SUV Leads Growth in Stalling U.S. Auto Market

As auto-sales growth has slowed this year in the U.S., the biggest gainers have been smaller luxury brands with new SUV offerings. Exhibit A: Jaguar, the elegant British line known traditionally for its sports cars and sedans.

With the timely addition of its F-Pace sport utility vehicle as well as its XE compact luxury sedan and clever marketing initiatives, Jaguar has drawn in more, new and younger customers. Sales in October more than tripled, and for the year, they’ve reached 23,568, up 93 percent, the most among brands tracked by Autodata Corp.

Jaguar F-Pace

Jaguar F-Pace (Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg)

Jaguar is hardly alone in cashing in on the SUV craze. Sister brand Land Rover, which specializes in body-on-frame luxury utilities, is up 7.8 percent. Volvo, best known for its XC90 crossover, has increased sales 20 percent, according to Wards. And Tesla Motors Inc., which added the Model X electric SUV to its lineup this year, grew about 78 percent through September, according to Autodata’s estimate. Tesla doesn’t release monthly results.

“The winners you called out, they all have a truck component to their business,” Mike Jackson, chief executive officer of dealership owner AutoNation Inc., said last week in an interview.

Those smaller brands with new SUV models are narrowing the sales gap — at least a little bit — with the top three brands, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus, which have all contracted this year.

“If you take the Germans, at the end of the day they were car companies,” said Jackson, a former sales executive with Mercedes-Benz USA. They’ve reacted as best they can to give consumers the SUVs that they want, but they also “need to reduce car production — and that’s tough.”

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