Media Land Rover

Jaguar Land Rover leans on U.S. amid China slump, Brexit turmoil

Jaguar Land Rover is facing stiff headwinds in the U.K. and in China but the automaker sees the U.S. as a relative oasis.

Plummeting China sales, Brexit tremors and tightening European emissions rules forced JLR parent Tata Motors. to take a record $3.9 billion writedown last year. But while global deliveries fell 4.6 percent, Jaguar Land Rover's 2018 sales in the U.S. rose 7.3 percent to a record of almost 123,000 vehicles.

JLR's top executive in the U.S., Joe Eberhardt, is aiming for a repeat performance this year.

"If we can keep our volumes around where we were last year, I would be more than happy," Eberhardt, head of the company’s North America business, said in an interview at the New York auto show last week. "We focus on the things we can control."

The U.S. is JLR’s single biggest market, and th company is betting on continued demand for utilities such as the Jaguar E-Pace and redesigned Range Rover Evoque, even as industrywide vehicle sales are expected to dip.

The automaker also is counting on a new version of the Land Rover Defender to boost sales when it arrives on U.S. shores in 2020.

"There is always room for further growth and the growth will have to come from new product,” Eberhardt said.

Maintaining that momentum in the U.S. is critical as the British automaker struggles to adjust to falling sales elsewhere. In January, JLR announced plans tocut 4,500 jobs worldwide -- roughly 10 percent of its work force -- as part of a 2.5 billion pound ($3.2 billion) push to reduce costs and boost cash flow through 2020.

Eberhardt said North America has done its part to contribute to cost savings, without elaborating.

Tata is said to be exploring strategic options for Jaguar Land Rover, including a potential stake sale in the struggling automaker, Bloomberg reported in March, citing people familiar with the matter.

Tata needs to raise $1 billion in 14 months to replace maturing bonds and is also burning cash on an investment program for electric cars.