Jaguar Land Rover Sees China Becoming Top Market

China has already replaced North America as the top overseas marked for British-based luxury carmaker Jaguar Land Rover which expects sales there soon to surpass those in its home market.

Jaguar Land Rover sold 36,451 cars in China in the first half of 2012 — a 100% growth from the same period of last year, according to Bob Grace, president of the firm’s China operations. China has overtaken North America to become the firm’s second-largest market after Britain. China sales are expected to top those of its home market in the near future.

As of the end of June the firm — which India’s Tata Motors bought from Ford in 2008 for $2.3 billion — tripled the number of authorized dealerships in China from 40 in 2010 to to 130 in 2010 with about 90 having begun sales operations.

The firm has also established two international standard training centers and facilities at three harbor cities, plus five parts and components distribution centers to strengthen the efficiency of its logistical network and get closer to Chinese customers.

In mid-June Jaguar Land Rover entered into a 12 billion yuan ($1.88 billion) joint venture with China’s Chery Automobile to produce 130,000 sedans per year under four models. Two will be Land Rover models, one will be Jaguar, and one is to be designed as a local brand by the joint venture, according to media reports. The venture received approval following an environmental impact review by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

A key feature of the joint venture will be a localization component calling for both R&D and design centers for cars to be manufactured in China. The company has already formed a special team to focus on the preferences of Chinese customers and to forward the data to Jaguar Land Rover’s headquarters in Britain. The company is also considering a separate design center in China for Jaguar Land Rover models not involved in the joint venture.

The company didn’t have an auspicious start when it entered the China market in 2003. Sales were in the hundreds each year. But in recent years its brands have achieved more acceptance. In 2011 Jaguar Land Rover passed the 42,000 mark for the first time. While JLR’s total China sales remain far behind those of luxury competitors Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, its small base has allowed the company to enjoy an industry-leading sales growth rate of 61%.