The Belgian importer, which has been an independent company in private hands for more than three decades, has always promoted Jaguar as a niche brand in the country.
To magazines and newspapers knocking on the advertising manager's door, it always responded that Jaguar didn't need to support its network of dealers and that its cars sold themselves without communication.
But times are changing and Jaguar Cars' executives in the UK, now a co-owner of Jaguar Belgium, are asking for more results. As a new management team is emerging at the Antwerp-based headquarters, more radical opportunities are offered.
Ford is also more involved in the daily management of the company, however the son of Jaguar Belgium's founding family retains the top job.
Jaguar sold 800 cars in Belgium last year and aims to reach 4,000 units by 2004.
According to insiders, this level will be difficult to reach without a change of approach. Anyway, the risk exists that Jaguar's image could be damaged if the brand becomes too popular. On the other hand, Ford needs to recoup its investment and that applies to Belgium too.
Hence the creation of Jaguar Financial Services, a division of FCE Bank plc, headed by Frenchman Philippe Maury, whose previous experience includes positions in the United States and Asia.
The newly-formed company, itself a joint venture with Jaguar Belgium, is targeting private and professional customers interested in joining the 'Jaguar club' of customers.
Its main product is called Jaguar Privilege and offers the opportunity to select a model from the Jaguar range and finance it during a period that should not be under 24 months.
The main advantage of the rationale is that Jaguar is determining the residual value of the cars involved, so that it offers customers very attractive monthly payments.
For example, the residual value of an X-type is at 44% after 20,000km and 24 months and is eventually maintained at 33%, provided after 30,000km during 36 months.
To qualify for those advantages, the customer has to make a down-payment worth 25% of the value of the new car. At the end of the contract, the customer has three options: buy a new car, leave Jaguar or keep it and pay the predetermined residual value of the car.
With Jaguar Privilege, the company expects to shift more new cars to the Belgian market at more affordable prices, so that a new league of customers will arise.
Jaguar knows that it will need more versatile products to reach its objectives. The Belgian car market is one of the most diesel-oriented in Western Europe and that's precisely where Jaguar has nothing to offer at the moment.
When diesel versions of the X- and S-type are launched, Jaguar Financial Services will certainly become more popular to car buyers. (July/August 2001)