FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Sales of Jaguar Land Rover vehicles in North America will most likely rise by more than 14 percent this year, higher than the current year-to-date growth, the luxury British carmaker's chief executive for the region said on Tuesday.
The automaker, owned by India's Tata Group (TAMO.NS) since 2008, has seen sales in China dive 29 percent but has recorded strong growth in the United States and Canada, helping to compensate for the downturn.
Joe Eberhardt said that the pace of growth in North American sales should pick up further in the next couple of months.
"We will, with the improved supply, I think beat that number over the next couple of months," Eberhardt told Reuters in an interview at the Frankfurt auto show.
Jaguar launched its first crossover sports utility vehicle at the Frankfurt show, which Eberhardt said should help balance sales between the Jaguar and Land Rover brands.
Jaguar sales fell by 4.4 percent in the United States, compared to a 20.5 percent rise for Land Rover in the first eight months of this year, according to Autodata Corp. Land Rover has accounted for around 80 percent of JLR sales in the United States this year.
Eberhardt also told Reuters that the United States lost out to Slovakia for the production a new Jaguar Land Rover model partly due to labor costs.
In August, JLR said it had signed a letter of intent to build a new plant in Slovakia after ruling out a number of alternative overseas locations in Europe, the United States and Mexico.
"You wouldn't have saved enough with the current product to make a viable proposition in the U.S," Eberhardt said, citing "the relatively high labor cost in the U.S., at least compared to other potential places in Eastern Europe."
Jaguar Land Rover is undergoing a major expansion strategy for its model lineup and production, said Eberhardt, who added that the United States could land future manufacturing, depending on a number of circumstances including tariffs.
"We continuously look at what other opportunities there are... I'm not ruling it out," he said of producing on U.S. soil.
Editing by William Hardy