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Japanese learn to look up to X-type

Being on-line is vital to sales success in the Japanese car market and Jaguar's state-of-the-art mobile phone links to the internet is paying dividends.

David Blume, president of Jaguar Japan, used his mobile phone (costing around £33) on the stand to call the company website.

The Imode system, working via the phone website, has eclipsed parallel PC-based technology in terms of generating X-type orders in the two months since it went on sale.

Mr Blume said this was partially due to a younger, more internet-receptive audience for the compact Jaguar, and the relentless pace of electronic communication developments in Japan. Customers can access specifications, prices, availability and dealer locations before finalising the deal.

A more daunting challenge involves keeping pace with satellite navigation and in-car information system development. Mr Blume calculated Japanese manufacturers were six months behind overseas rivals.

He said: "You have to freeze the design of a car at some point but as the lifecycle of some electronic hardware is six months, it gets tougher to keep up.

"Twenty to 30 electronics manufacturers offer navigation equipment in Japan and the domestic car firms can delay that aspect of the car longer."

Mr Blume said there had been more than 1,000 orders for the X-type in Japan which he thought was impressive in a fiercely competitive market sector. Around 400 have been delivered - in Japan the X-type costs between £25,300 and £31,250.

"The X-type is up against European opposition like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-class and Volvo S60," Mr Blume said. "There is also a cluster of highly specified V6 Toyotas and Nissans sold on equipment and price, not prestige name plates.

"The XJ is an envied car but we have to persuade Japanese customers it is alright to aspire to a smaller Jaguar. It is almost as though they feel too humble to own a Jaguar in this segment."

Mr Blume was confident Jaguar could break previous Japanese sales records and deliver 3,500 cars this year - 40% will be X-Types, compared to last year's total of 2,880.

The economic uncertainty generated after the September 11 terrorist attacks resulted in Jaguar extending its annual autumn factory shutdown by five days at the Coventry and Birmingham plants.

September was a record sales month for Jaguar world-wide with 11,300 units. Sales this year are expected to reach around 100,000, compared to last year's record of 90,000. (November 12, 2001)

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