Can you tell more about yourself and how you came to be a part of the automotive industry?
My career actually began in the automotive industry, and I have been within the Jaguar Land Rover network for over 25 years now. During this time, I have had the privilege of capitalising on the many opportunities to grow our network in the region. As the Managing Director for Jaguar Land Rover Middle East and North Africa from April 2014, I am responsible for spearheading our next phase of automotive innovation in one of the world’s most competitive markets.
How important is the Middle East market for JLR? What are the company’s plans for this region?
MENA is one of most competitive and dynamic markets in the world, which actually gives us a great opportunity to build our brand’s presence through a genuinely consumer-centric approach. Despite the headwinds faced by the region’s automotive industry, Jaguar reported an impressive increase in annual sales of 46 percent in 2018/19, while Land Rover recorded a 13 percent year-on-year increase over the same period. We are currently focussed on meeting strong consumer-demand for our latest high-performance vehicles across MENA markets, and of course delivering the next-generation of automotive technologies in line with the brands’ Autonomous, Connected, Electric, and Shared (ACES) strategy.
Land Rover is known for its rugged and stylish SUVs. But now practically every brand worth its name has its own range of SUVs. How will this affect the demand for your models?
Within the SUV segment – in the Middle East and abroad – there is simply no automaker out there that can match Land Rover’s appeal. We always keep an eye on the competition of course, particularly with the growing number of sporty, compact SUVs, but we are confident that our cars offer a unique mix of performance and practicality. In fact, with our new model launches including the Range Rover Evoque and the Range Rover Velar SV Autobiography Dynamic Edition, we are optimistic about the growth potential in in the latter half of 2019. And let’s not forget one of the most highly anticipated reveals coming soon from our stables, the iconic, Land Rover Defender.
The automotive industry in this region has been experiencing a slowdown. How have you tweaked your retail and marketing strategy in light of this slump?
In terms of retail, we are focussed on extending our line-up to reach new customers across different segments. To that end, we launched our first dedicated Jaguar Land Rover approved used car facility in Dubai with our local retailer partner Al Tayer Motors in 2017. We also kicked off the new Jaguar Land Rover ‘ARCH’ corporate identity across our MENA dealer network, which delivers a premium experience to our customers every step of the journey.
As one of the biggest players in MENA’s automotive industry, our marketing strategy focuses on growing within niche markets where customers are less sensitive to prices, and demand highly differentiated solutions that play to Jaguar Land Rover’s traditional strengths. These markets include business travel, private transportation for children, non-emergency medical transportation, and the premium travel and tourism market.
The general perception is that Jaguar models are quite expensive. When it comes to the total cost of ownership, how do Jaguar cars fare when compared to other luxury brands?
From insurance, servicing and depreciation values to fuel consumption and CO2 emissions – all Jaguar vehicles adhere to stringent targets to ensure the competitiveness of our cars, which gives our customers the peace of mind to know that they have made a smart financial decision in choosing a Jaguar. We offer a comprehensive five year warranty coverage and service and maintenance coverage to all clients. That helps dramatically to reduce, and even eliminate servicing payments – offering us a competitive edge.
Our retail price points across each nameplate are designed to offer customers the product specifications and features that suit customer demand, preferences and lifestyles at competitive prices. We also provide a number of purchasing options personalized to meet consumer preferences. Tactical offers at present have five percent VAT paid, plus five percent cash back as well as a years’ worth of free insurance.
The residual values of Jaguar vehicles are positive supported by the warranty and servicing inclusion offers and competitive prices. Our franchise retailers provide best in-class offers on approved pre-owned vehicles which when combined with financial services, help optimize the cost of change and appreciate the value of second hand Jaguars. Customers can also benefit from our financial deals that provide interest-free loans for two to five years to help consumers defer payments for the respective periods, therefore lowering the cost of ownership.
We also cover the developments in the parts business. The issue of fake and genuine parts is a major concern in this region. What measures has JLR taken to ensure that customers in the Middle East have access to genuine parts at reasonable prices?
Jaguar Land Rover takes brand protection very seriously and aims to continually diminish the counterfeit parts market in MENA, and across the globe. We have a global brand protection team who act upon tips and leads with regards to counterfeit parts. Matters related to non-genuine parts are actively handled by the brand Protection team in the UK office, once identified and escalated within the retailer network.
For instance, a container of Land Rover parts was shipped to a MENA port, which was identified as being counterfeit and subsequently destroyed. We have also been made aware of a company using a look-a-like logo which we have initiated action against.
You will appreciate the subject is highly confidential and while we may not publicly broadcast our activities I can assure you we are active in protecting our brand. We also continue to improve our menu pricing to ensure JLR parts are competitively rated, and take measures to ensure our annual labour rate reviews are up to standard. We have menu pricing structure across our network which maintains a consistency combined with MSRP. We also have our distribution centre located here in Dubai for efficient cost-effective supply.
Which are the most popular models in the Middle East market and why?
Since its arrival in the Middle East in 1948, the Land Rover brand has gone on to become one of the region’s most beloved brands, and has continually evolved over time to keep delivering new and interesting products to this market. By embracing new technological advancements, with enhanced off-road capabilities, models such as the classic Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Range Rover Velar have continued to dominate the SUV segment. Owing to their unique premium positioning, positive consumer perception, breadth of capability and cost of ownership – the Range Rover brand has proven to be a capable all-rounder even in the toughest conditions. In the luxury segment, we are also noticing a growing shift from sedans to compact SUVs – a trend which is global and is reflected heavily across region. We are having notable success in our compact SUV sales, with Jaguar F-PACE and E-PACE topping the lists in the Jaguar family.
You have worked for JLR in diverse markets like China, UK and South Africa. What learnings have you brought from your stints in these markets to your experience here in the Middle East?
Each market I have worked in has provided an incredible learning curve. During my time in China, as the Executive Vice President of Sales and Service Operations for Jaguar Land Rover, I was part of a team that transformed our operation from selling less than 20,000 vehicles a year with 34 dealers in 2010 to selling 103,000 vehicles through 220 dealers in 2013/14. Taking lessons from the value of a collaborative marketing, sales, and service structure, I have succeeded in driving growth in the Middle Eastern market since arriving here.
What are your most recent expansion plans for this market?
Together with our on-going product launches and calibrated investment plans to lift our services in the Middle East, we are currently laying the foundations for sustainable growth in the region. Revealing the iconic Defender and the second-generation Range Rover Evoque, introducing cleaner, smarter, more desirable cars, and electrifying our facilities to enhance the customer experience are all integral to our expansion plans in the near future. We are also excited to introduce the award winning I-PACE SUV in the second half of 2019, which has helped Jaguar to create a new benchmark in the world of luxury electric vehicles, thus paving the way for an electrified future for the brand.
Emissions and fuel efficiency have turned into major concerns to the point where many cities are planning to ban diesel powered vehicles. What technological innovations have been developed to conform to the new, more stringent norms?
Complying with global emission regulations is an integral part of Jaguar Land Rover’s sustainability agenda. We produce Euro 6 engines that are now among the cleanest diesel engines in the world, with pollutant emissions equivalent to those of petrol. In the future, our MLA architecture will allow our customers to choose from a full electric, hybrid or clean petrol and diesel engine, and opt for the cleanest technology in the sector. Through these advancements, Jaguar Land Rover has been able to reduce CO2 emissions by 25 percent, NOX by 84 percent, and other particulates by 95 percent over the last decade.
The government in Dubai is very active in promoting electric cars. What is JLR’s strategy for electric vehicles in the Middle East in view of the forthcoming launch of the I-PACE here?
The government of Dubai has a clear vision for a sustainable future and electric vehicles play a key role in it. The municipality and DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) have already developed a strong electric infrastructure to support electric vehicles in Dubai, with 200 electric charging stations already installed in selected public areas. Dubai is aiming to have 42,000 electric vehicles on its streets by 2030, and I’m confident the I-PACE’s will be a game-changer for motorists in the emirate. The Jaguar I-PACE is a trailblazer in its field, setting the standards for other manufacturers to follow. I am sure it will flourish in newer markets in the region.
It has now been one year since it became legal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia. How has JLR tried to promote its models to women motorists in the Saudi market?
The interest and demand from female Saudi customers since the royal decree was announced has been steadily increasing, and today, women motorists make up 25 percent of our total vehicles sales in the Kingdom. To sustain and build on this development, we are committed to delivering a stress-free ownership and aftersales experience for our new female customers in KSA. To that end, we introduced the ‘My Car, My Decision’ (Sayarati, Qarari) initiative to empower female drivers with knowledge and guidance on their vehicle and assist them throughout the buying experience.
Customers now have high expectations in terms of connectivity and in-car technology. What new features do JLR’s new models offer with regard to this aspect?
One major development is our involvement in several autonomous research projects around the world. Our connected and automated technology could help improve traffic flow, cut congestion, and reduce the potential for accidents. Our team has also for a long time been refining how to improve the driving experience through new applications of technology, for example, by providing drivers with autonomous assist during tedious or stressful parts of the journey. In terms of in-car technology, we are continuously devising and testing new features such as Intelligent Seat Fold technology and All-Terrain Progress Control, which are already available to Land Rover drivers.
Many companies are now offering advanced safety features as standard on their mass market models. How do JLR models rate when it comes to safety and what new technologies have been developed in this regard?
Together with our leading innovation partners, we’ve been investing in safety technology that could transform our customers on-road and off-road experiences. Most recently, in partnership with Glasgow University, Jaguar Land Rover created a ‘sensory steering wheel’ which comprises points that quickly heat up and cool to inform drivers where to turn, when to change lane, or to warn of an approaching junction. We are also working closely with Waymo – formerly Google’s self-driving car project, to develop the world’s first premium self-driving electric vehicle for the company’s driverless transportation service. The Jaguar Land Rover ‘Sixth Sense’ research project is also currently in the works. The project utilises advanced technology from sports, medicine and aerospace, to monitor the driver’s heart rate, respiration, and levels of brain activity to identify driver stress, fatigue and lack of concentration.
Which is your favourite vehicle and why?
My personal favourite would have to be the I-PACE. Not only does it set a new benchmark as the world’s best premium electric vehicle, it’s also a true Jaguar driver’s car. A combination of sports car performance, zero emissions, exceptional refinement, and true SUV practicality make it the stand-out choice in the segment.
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