LA Auto Show: Jaguar Shows It's Still Here, Still Sexy, Still Relevant

Last Updated Nov 22, 2010 12:45 PM EST

Jaguar made a big splash at last week's press preview for the Los Angeles Auto Show. The brand urgently needs to raise its profile, considering its relatively recent change in ownership, from Ford (F) to India's Tata Motors (TTM). Jaguar's newest owner is a big international automaker, but Tata is unknown in the United States.

Jaguar blew through what must have been a huge chunk of its annual budget at the Los Angeles Auto Show, but it was almost certainly worth it. In addition to the auto show itself, Jaguar and its sister brand Land Rover had satellite events all over town, starting almost a week in advance of the auto show.

The full-court press included taking over expensive venues like the W Hotel, plus billboards, displays, celebrity appearances (Jaguar fan and car collector Jay Leno took a test drive), and on and on.

All of the above was streamed online and repackaged into online content. The brands can show that content over and over.

The Jaguar effort illustrates some things in the auto industry never seem to change:

  • Auto shows are an old-fashioned concept, but they're still relevant. If anything, the advent of social media makes auto shows more relevant than ever. For a while there, it looked as if online media might have the opposite effect. For instance, several car companies bailed out of the Detroit auto show in the last couple of years for budget reasons. Auto shows were starting to look skippable.
  • Southern California is still the one. If a brand has to pick just one U.S. market in which to be successful, SoCal is it. Especially for a luxury import brand, other markets pale in comparison to car-crazy Southern California. New York and Miami are also in the top tier. However, the automotive one-upsmanship among wealthy buyers concentrated in the Greater Los Angeles area is unique.
  • People still go gaga over sports cars. Even a "green" sports car like the Jaguar C-X75 Concept, which made its North American debut in Los Angeles, still turns heads.

The Jaguar C-X75 Concept is all-wheel drive, since each wheel has its own electric motor. It can run up to 68 miles on battery power alone, on a single charge. It also has gas-turbine engines that can run on a variety of different fuels, to recharge the battery. That extends the effective range up to 560 miles.

Oh, and its top speed is 205 mph. My experience at auto shows is that everybody flocks to the quote-unquote "supercars," like Ferrari (FIATY.PK) and Lamborghini (VLKAY.PK).

Jaguar can hold its head up in that kind of company - the "75" in the name of the Jaguar C-X75 Concept refers to the brand's 75th anniversary -- but Jaguar needs to remind people of that, to keep itself on the agenda. The Los Angeles Auto Show effort will help Jaguar do that.

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Photo: Jaguar