January 14, 2008 / 8:09 AM / 10 years ago

Land Rover "strongly in profit"

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co’s (F.N) Land Rover luxury unit “is strongly in profit at the moment”, the unit’s managing director said on Sunday.

“We haven’t found the ceiling yet in some of (the emerging) markets,” Phil Popham told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the North American International Auto Show, adding that he sees “positive signs for this year.”

In 2007, Land Rover’s global sales increased nearly 18 percent to 226,395 vehicles, driven by a 96 percent increase in sales in Russia and a 143 percent increase in sales in China.

Ford does not break out the financial results of individual brands.

Popham said the British brand, which sells luxury sport utility vehicles, last year sold around 30,000 vehicles in markets it did not even have a presence in five years ago.

The brand is planning to expand its dealership network, improve infrastructure such as warehousing and add more people in emerging markets, Popham said.

Land Rover expects Russia to be a leading market, along with the United Kingdom, he added.

Popham also said the brand sees growing potential in India and is looking at the market for additional growth. “India is a market we are considering,” he said.

Land Rover along with sister luxury brand Jaguar is in the process of being sold by Ford, which said earlier this month that it had selected India’s Tata Motors Ltd (TAMO.BO) as the frontrunner to buy the units.

Ford, which bought Land Rover from German premium carmaker BMW (BMWG.DE) in 2000, has said it expects the sale of the unit and Jaguar to close in the first quarter.

Popham said he does not expect any changes due to the impending sale. “Our assumption is business as usual,” he said. “The management board of Land Rover has met with all our bidders.”

Popham also said the brand is committed to improving its quality, which has been lagging other nameplates the past few years. It was placed last in J.D. Power’s 2007 Initial Quality Survey, logging 170 problems per 100 vehicles, but was the most improved brand in the study.

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