Thursday, August 16, 2007

Jaguar’s decline tells tale of tarnished brand


There’s nothing quite as sad as a great name gone bad. Jaguar once was counted among the very best in luxury vehicle nameplates, and its name was synonymous with sophistication and style.

But the Big Cat’s image has seriously eroded in recent years under the ownership of Ford, despite a revival in its flagging quality. Ford acquired the British nameplate in 1989 and now is considering selling it.

When Ford reported gloomy July sales figures this month, it became clear just how far the tarnished Jaguar brand had fallen.

July was a terrible month for car sales industrywide, and particularly for Ford. All six of its vehicle brands saw monthly sales declines, but Jaguar took the biggest hit, with sales tumbling 43 percent to just 1,136 vehicles. Last year Jaguar’s U.S. sales fell 30 percent.

What happened? Put simply, Jaguar hasn’t kept up with the times, particularly when it comes to style. Research shows Jaguar buyers are older than the average luxury car shopper. Jaguar is suffering from an aging audience, according to George Magliano, director of automotive industry research at Global Insight.

“I don’t think people under 60 are aware of the luster of the Jaguar brand name,” said Magliano. “This is a difficult market, and people don’t necessarily see the Jaguar brand as a luxury sports car any more. And over the last decade the product just hasn’t been there to grab the American consumer.”

Jaguar, which traces its history to 1922, once stood for everything that’s best about automobile manufacturing — outstanding design, engineering and performance. The Jaguar E-Type, probably the most famous Jag of all, revolutionized sports car design in the 1960s and became an icon of that decade.

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