While many automakers are feeling the slowdown of the Pandemic, the lockdown, and the resulting economic turmoil, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is looking for speed and. they think they’ll find it in their Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) unit, creators of the Jaguar XE SV Project 8, and the Range Rover Sport SVR among other things.
SVO seems new but it has already been building maxed-out Range Rovers and Jags for more than five years now. Starting with that first Range Rover Sport SVR, then on the 592-horsepower Jaguar XE SV Project 8 before stuffing a V8 in the Jaguar F-Pace and Range Rover Velar, the division has made its mark on Tata-era Jaguar and Land Rover, helping them meet the expectations and desires of the very top of the market. Well, at least those who are looking to make a statement.
Now, Autocar reports that JLR is looking to put the juice behind the SVO team and expand its offerings beyond the short-run models and customization jobs it currently does, which include custom interior work and ballistics resistance in addition to performance upgrades. While that expansion will likely not include down-market models like modified E-Paces and Evoques, the expansion should allow the unit to reach more customers than it captures already.
Though these custom-built models are at the very top of Jaguar Land Rover’s offerings, sales have been strong. Last year they sold nearly 10,000 cars. I don’t know if you know much about how JLR is doing lately, but that’s a big chunk of the company’s work. A big chunk. Clearly, the Tata accountants watching over things at JLR think that the high-ticket, lower volume approach the brands’ skunkworks have taken will pay off with more sales and more custom orders, which were already up 20% before the pandemic hit.
Much of the demand that drove this change in strategy came out of the flagship Jaguar Land Rover dealership in Munich, Germany. There, where seven SVO models are on display (more than anywhere else in the world), JLR has learned how to more effectively market its highest-ticket items to the right buyers. and is looking to implement that strategy elsewhere.
While that seems like a worthwhile approach to me, I would question whether the German market, which has fared significantly better in the Pandemic than even its neighbors to the west in France and Belgium and the south in Italy, could serve as an effective model for the rest of the global car market, particularly at the very top where SVO plays. Still, if SVO can hold its own in Germany alongside BMW’s M division, AMG at Mercedes and quattro GmbH at Audi, that’s pretty impressive in its own right.
Whatever the outcome, I’m excited to see what SVO comes up with, especially as Jaguar readies itself to release its new EV XJ successor and Land Rover finally launches the new Defender for real. A V8-powered SVO-adulterated Defender was originally planned but got canned not long ago. Perhaps now that the focus is on the very top of the market, that car could be back in the cards.