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JLR rural expansion underway ahead of new Defender

Old guard: A new Defender (previous model shown) is due soon and JLR Australia believes there is potential growth for such a model in regional Australia.

Regional areas expected to spur growth in SUV sales for Jaguar Land Rover Australia

Land Rover logo6 Apr 2018

JAGUAR Land Rover (JLR) Australia is targeting regional centres as part of its 20 per cent dealer expansion, with its growing crop of current and future SUVs that the company expects to appeal to rural customers.

Models such as the recently-released Jaguar E-Pace and larger F-Pace SUV, and the upcoming refreshed Range Rover and Range Rover Sport line-ups are tipped to boost the uptake of JLR models outside of urban areas.

However it is the next-generation Defender that is tipped to make waves in regional Australia, as the all-new model sheds its bare-bones image and moves into a more premium space, while retaining its off-road capability.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the Jaguar E-Pace small SUV, JLR Australia managing director Matthew Wiesner said that the company wanted to be regional Australian’s go-to brand in the premium segment.

“We’re now a pretty reasonable volume premium luxury brand, our core USP (unique selling point) and expertise is in the SUV space, and in regional Australia we should be the luxury car of choice,” he said.

“And that’s what we see when we go into our regional markets, obviously SUVs are popular because of the capability, and our role is to be the aspirational luxury vehicle in that space because that’s what Land Rover and especially Range Rover stand for.”

JLR Australia announced last year that it was targeting a 20 per cent dealership expansion, with the intention of increasing its dealer network from 43 sites to 52 within 18 months.

The expansion is now well underway, with a number of dealerships set to open across the country in the coming months.

“In May we open in Essendon (west Melbourne) in a new facility at the Essendon airport, which is a fantastic investment by Automotive Holdings Group,” said Mr Wiesner.

“Ballarat (western Victoria) opens in May as well, and Bunbury in Western Australia. And then we roll into Wagga in New South Wales in, I think, July/August.

“So we had to increase our regional presence into some of those key regional cities that we haven’t been, particularly with Land Rover where we haven’t been for 15 years.”

Mr Wiesner added that there were also areas of Sydney that JLR has identified as needing representation, however the company wants to wait until ongoing infrastructure projects are finished before locking down appropriate locations.

“Sydney has got great coverage – there’s some holes there at the moment that are going to remain until we get a better understanding of some of the trends like in Sydney we’ve got Castle Hill, we’re not in Castle Hill.

“We want to better understand what’s going to happen with some of the infrastructure investments that are going on at the moment with WestConnex and NorthConnex, SouthConnex and all the other Connex projects.

“Broadly speaking, our metro coverage is pretty good. It’s about making sure we continue to push into those large regional cities that we haven’t been in for a long time.”

Mr Wiesner identified the all-new Defender, which is still yet to be revealed, as a crucially important ingredient for JLR’s success in regional areas.

Production of the venerable Defender ceased in 2016, due to a number of factors including emissions regulations and production capacities which consigned it to the history books after an unbroken production run that could be traced back to the original Series I Land Rover from 1948.

Previously sold as a no-nonsense off-roader with minimal comfort features, the new Defender will take up the role of the previous-generation Discovery, as the fifth-generation version of the Disco challenges the likes of the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLE in the premium large SUV segment.

“(Land Rover design director) Gerry McGovern was talking at the Geneva motor show about the next-generation Defender (and) he was getting very excited,” said Mr Wiesner.

“Now obviously products like that in regional Australia are pretty important, and that vehicle plays a big role because Discovery especially has moved up into quite a more premium space, so Defender’s role is to come into that more traditional Land Rover space and play that role absolutely.

“And we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got good regional coverage for it to do that, because it’s a great opportunity. I’ve seen the new one and it’s fantastic, (McGovern) has done a fantastic job.

“It’s been a hard job for them, but I think it ticks all those boxes around what should a next-generation of it look like and capability is also a massive part of it.”

There is no concrete timing for the Defender reveal, however GoAuto understands that it is likely to be uncovered before the end of the year to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the commencement of Series I production.

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