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JAGUAR PUTS FOCUS ON QUALITY AD CAMPAIGN TRIES TO SHOW AUTOMAKER NOW HAS IT RIGHT

By Published on .

Jaguar Cars President Michael Dale says he doesn't envy Lexus. Not even though the Japanese luxury car brand outsells Jaguar about 6-to-1 and perennially finishes at the top of customer satisfaction surveys.

Mr. Dale said he likes Jaguar's position in the U.S. market because it is a brand with high prestige that is improving its quality and value. In contrast, Lexus' value is being eroded by stiff price increases. And other automakers are closing the gap on Lexus' quality rating leads, while Lexus "still struggles to get prestige."

"Our marketing task is to convince the world that already is passionately in love with us that [Jaguar's] statistical, efficiency side is now right," Mr. Dale said.

To accomplish the goal, Jaguar is focusing an estimated $25 million marketing effort to introduce its redesigned XJ line of sedans. Prices start at $53,450, up 3.3% from the 1994 base price.

Mr. Dale said dealership traffic has risen 50% since the campaign from Ogilvy & Mather, New York, broke Sept. 28. The print, TV and direct marketing effort asserts Jaguar's elegant styling and high performance remain intact even as major improvements in quality have been added. The ads are a sly acknowledgment of its longstanding reputation for poor quality.

"If you go to a focus group of Jaguar owners, their quality stories are hair-raising," Mr. Dale said. "But they still hang in there, because they love the cars."

The improvements are a result of Ford Motor Co.'s $2.5 billion acquisition of the British luxury automaker in 1989, said Mr. Dale. Ford has spent another $1.5 billion to improve quality and design new products.

Mr. Dale said Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. invested about the same amount to put Lexus where it is today.

Jaguar regularly sold more than 20,000 cars in the U.S. during the mid-1980s and hopes to top that by the end of the decade. Unit sales, 14,913 last year, dropped as low as 9,000 in 1992.

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