The arrival mid-year of the new Jaguar XK grand touring car will signify a change for the British prestige brand in New Zealand.
That's the word from Wallis Dumper, the managing director of newly-appointed Jaguar agent, Motorcorp Distributors.
Dumper says the marketing for the British luxury and sports car brand will be based around the XK.
Dumper took over as Jaguar boss earlier this year after 10 years running Subaru of New Zealand - 10 years in which he turned the Japanese marque from an unprofitable player in NZ into one of the country's most successful niche brands. Dumper played on Subaru's unique attributes, emphasised its rallying successes, took on Japanese import Subarus with aggressively-priced small-volume models, and turned it into a four-wheel drive-only brand.
He takes over at Jaguar at a time when the brand is in the doldrums in NZ: in the first quarter of this year it was outsold by fellow Ford-owned prestige brand, Aston Martin. And that was despite the fact that Aston makes only sports cars while Jaguar markets a blend of GTs and sedans.
Dumper makes no bones about the massive task ahead - "there are problems for Jaguar in NZ" - but he points to New Zealanders' affection for the British marque.
As evidence he offers the thousands owned locally, and the large number arriving here as used imports: only 13 percent of Jaguar sales are of new cars. Used import Jaguar registrations account for 22 percent.
"People like Jaguars but they're buying cheap, 10pyear-old ones. We need to change that," he told a media briefing last week. "Jaguar is a fantastic brand, and people want to buy the right models at the right price."
He envisages making Jaguar a brand driven by customer demand, with buyers ordering cars they want. There will be no ordering cars carte blanche and then have them sitting in dealers' showrooms forlornly awaiting buyers and eventually being sold at discount.
He wants to make it a truly aspirational brand, and one which will attract younger buyers: to that end he favours the new metallic-style interior accents rather than the traditional woodgrain.
Dumper says Motorcorp Distributors will play up the marque's racing heritage and its many Le Mans 24-HOur race wins.
The new XK will be pivotal to how Jaguar is re-born for New Zealand, though he admits it will initially be in short supply. Jaguar dealers already hold 19 orders for cars, but his first allocation is for 12 cars.
Worldwide demand for the new Jaguar XK coupe and convertible has resulted in significant waiting lists for the car in New Zealand.
"Initial production forecast requirements for New Zealand were so small that we are being under supplied," says Dumper.
"But it's a worldwide problem. Demand is outstripping supply everywhere. Add to that the rave reviews the media are giving the new XK and it’s just compounding the supply issue."
The new XK has a lightweight aluminum body and is powered by a 224kW, 4.2-litre V8. It has a six-speed automatic gearbox with steering wheel-mounted paddle shift. There is a roomier interior, with Jaguar's standard setting leather upholstery and the option of wood for the traditional Jaguar owner or alloy trim what Dumper calls "the new Jaguar generation."
"We're returning to the company's racing heritage and in the future our model line-up will only be sedans and the XK coupe and convertible. This is a difficult decision given how well the X-Type Touring Wagon drives and performs."
Dumper says there are a few X-Type Touring Wagons left for sale in New Zealand. "Once they are gone, that's it; we won't be getting any more."
Other Jaguars in the pipeline include a diesel S-Type which will come here as a 2007 model and the supercharged XK-R which will probably arrive next January.