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Thursday, January 7, 1999 Published at 16:50 GMT

Business: The Company File

Jaguar leaps to record sales

Sales augur well for Jaguar's new S-type model

Luxury carmaker Jaguar has posted a record sales year in 1998, while overall UK new car registrations have risen to their second highest level over the same period.

Jaguar Cars, owned by US giant Ford since 1989, said sales hit 50,000 cars for the first time, a 15% increase on 1997. Its UK sales rose 22% to 11,640, the best in a decade, while exports rose 9% to 38,550 cars.

European sales rose 21.4% and sales in the US, Jaguar's biggest market, rose 15.4% to the highest level since Ford took over the company.

Jaguar chairman Nick Scheele announced the figures at the Detroit Motor Show and welcomed the "outstanding sales results". He said the figures gave the company a strong platform for the launch of its new S-Type sport saloon.

Near-record UK sales

Last year, 2.25m new vehicles took to the road in Britain, a figure up 3.5% on 1997 and beaten only by 1989's 2.3m, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

[ image: Two-speed performance by UK carmakers]
Two-speed performance by UK carmakers
However, the Society warned that economic slowdown meant the prospects for 1999 were far less rosy with a 9% fall from the 1998 figure expected.

In December, sales jumped almost 14% reflecting a mix of new models and falling interest rates in the latter part of the year.

The top selling cars for the month in the UK were the Ford Fiesta, followed by the Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Corsa and Vauxhall Vectra.

Despite the successes of Jaguar and Vauxhall, British-built cars accounted for only 28.8% of the December sales - a fall of 6.1% on their December 1997 market share.

On Monday, the troubled Rover Group, reported a 7% fall in 1998 sales to 485,000 cars saying the high pound had hit export sales and while competition had intensified at home.

New Jaguars

Jaguar shattered sales records in a number of countries, including Ireland, Italy, Spain and Austria.

Mr Scheele said his company is counting on the X400 and the new S-Type luxury sport sedan to boost worldwide annual sales to 200,000 by 2002 and expects to make 80,000 sales this year.

Commenting on industry speculation, he said on Wednesday that Jaguar has no immediate plans to build a sports utility car, and the next niche it most likely will fill is a coupe or convertible version of its planned X400, nicknamed the "baby Jag".

The X400 will be introduced in spring 2001, while the S-type will debut in England in March this year and the US two months later. It will raise the number of models Jaguar sells to four.

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