Jaguar Is Committed to Its Increasingly Popular Diesels in America, but the Marketing Plan Is Quiet

Jaguar’s U.S. outlets are benefiting not just from last year’s introduction of a new XE entry-level sedan and the brand’s top-selling F-Pace SUV but also the broad availability of diesel powerplants.

In the shadows of Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal that broke in late 2015, Jaguar began offering diesel engines in the United States for the first time in 2016. Through the first eight months of 2017, 13 percent of the vehicles sold by the Jaguar brand in America were powered by the company’s 2.0-liter turbodiesel.

It’s not surprising then that Jaguar told TTAC’s own Adam Tonge at the North American unveiling of the new E-Pace crossover that diesel will continue to be a focus for Jaguar Land Rover in the United States. The company sees a niche for diesel vehicles in the premium space, particularly now with the complete absence of Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Porsche in the sphere.

And yet you won’t really be hearing about Jaguar’s diesel offerings.

According to Jaguar Land Rover’s North American CEO Joe Eberhardt, “I think we will take the natural demand that comes through word-of-mouth.”

It’s not a crazy strategy. “That is still the most potent sales tool,” Eberhardt tells Automotive News, “when someone has one and likes it and tells their friends.”

Yet the potency of the word-of-mouth strategy isn’t the only reason for Jaguar’s decision to avoid meaningful diesel marketing. Jaguar, like other auto brands providing light-duty diesel options, is living in a post dieselgate arena. “Right now, with all the negativity around diesel, if we pushed it really hard, I am not sure it would convert someone who has a negative connotation just by saying, ‘It’s not as bad as you think,’” Eberhardt says.

That echoes the thoughts of Masahiro Moro, whose Mazda brand has yet to deliver on the promise of a diesel-powered 2017 CX-5 but who isn’t sure consumers can be swayed. “I don’t intend to change American consumer mindset to diesel,” Mazda’s Moro said earlier this year. “We would like to provide a choice for customers who really appreciate those technologies.”Without a proper marketing campaign, Jaguar is getting what it wants out of its four-cylinder diesel family. 1,745 of the 12,988 F-Paces sold in America so far this year, 13 percent, are diesel-powered. That makes the Jaguar F-Pace America’s third-best-selling premium brand diesel product. Jaguar sold another 1,293 copies of the XE diesel, or 20 percent of its 6,571-unit total through the first two-thirds of 2017. Another 336 copies of the XF diesel, 12 percent of the 2,776 overall XF tally, takes Jaguar’s diesel volume up to 3,374 sales so far this year.

Jaguar’s 2.0-liter Ingenium diesel produces 180 horsepower and 318 lb-ft of torque. In the F-Pace, its combined EPA fuel economy rating is 29 miles per gallon. That figure rises to 35 mpg in the XF and 36 mpg in the smaller XE.

Jaguar’s two products that don’t offer diesel engines, the full-size XJ sedan and the F-Type sports car, earned 4,597 total sales through August. As recently as 2012, Jaguar barely sold 12,000 vehicles in the entire calendar year. While not yet approaching the sales pace achieved when the X-Type was Jaguar’s entry-level model, Jaguar is on track in 2017 to sell 40,000 vehicles for the first time since 2004.

Diesels play a major role in that growth. After all, that 40,000 figure will likely include around 5,000 diesel-powered F-Paces, XEs, and XFs. Just don’t expect Jaguar to work very hard to get 6,000 diesel sales.

[Images: Jaguar Land Rover]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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