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Land Rover to fill ‘white space’ in line-up

Family values: Land Rover believes its brand is strong enough to push product boundaries further than it did with the hot-selling Evoque.

Model proliferation, niche-filling hinted by Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern

23 Oct 2012

LAND ROVER is keen to capitalise on the success of the Range Rover Evoque and explore what other niches it can fill, according to the company’s design director, Gerry McGovern.

Speaking with Australian media last week on the eve of the Sydney motor show, Mr McGovern said the British SUV specialist is looking at how its brand can be “stretched”, with three product families based around the themes of luxury (Range Rover), versatility (Discovery) and dual-purpose (Defender).

The Range Rover family is already filling out with the Sport and Evoque, the Discovery family will expand to absorb the next-generation Freelander, and an all-new replacement for the classic Defender is in the works.

In addition to a high-performance Evoque variant, Land Rover is considering a sub-Evoque luxury SUV and also going all-out with an “Uber Range Rover” that would go beyond the Ultimate edition launched last year.

“We are looking at how small can we go, what direction we can go, lots of questions that we are asking ourselves internally,” said Mr McGovern.

“I truly believe that Land Rover, because of its roots, has the ability to stretch and have greater resonance with a greater number of people.”

 center imageFrom top: Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern Jaguar Land Rover's Phil Popham 2013 Range Rover.

He used as an example the Evoque compact luxury SUV, which launched last year almost unchanged from the LRX concept of 2007.

More than 100,000 Evoques were sold worldwide in its first year, with 80 per cent of buyers new to the Land Rover brand and 70 per cent new to SUVs, indicating opportunities to attract more new customers.

Mr McGovern described the Evoque market as “white space” and mused over “what other white space opportunities are there for us”.

Mr McGovern believes Land Rover’s brand can be stretched to accommodate various types of vehicles, so long as they have a “killer combination of great design and true engineering integrity,” plus class-leading all-terrain capability.

“If we had described the Evoque to you a few years ago, you’d have said, ‘That isn’t a Land Rover’.

“If you go back 10-15 years when we were developing the Freelander, people were saying to me, ‘This isn’t a Land Rover because it’s got a monocoque construction, it doesn’t have beam axles’, but it became the best-selling small SUV in Europe for seven years.”

With the all-new Range Rover that made its Southern Hemisphere debut at the Sydney show occupying the top of Land Rover’s family tree, Mr McGovern said we can now expect “a whole proliferation of products”.

“I am not going to tell you what ones there are going to be, but we will see a whole cadence of launches over the next few years,” he said.

Mr McGovern also agreed a more performance-oriented Evoque was under consideration, saying: “I think as we go on there will be a desire for certain vehicles within our range to have higher performance and I think probably Evoque would be one of them.”

Asked if a sub-Evoque product was on the cards, he said: “I am not saying we will, but personally I think so.

“In the automotive world, if you think smaller you generally think cheaper, (but) in the world of luxury the smaller you go the more expensive you become, you think of jewel-like quality – we could do an incredibly luxurious smaller vehicle than Evoque, of course we could.

“What we want within this family of vehicles is for each to have its own personality, so if we were to take that Evoque and just make it bigger or smaller that isn’t really doing what we want.

“That isn’t saying you couldn’t take that platform and reconfigure it to give you a different type of vehicle below it or above it, but it is not a case of just downsizing or making it bigger.”

At the other end of the scale, he said Land Rover is “totally preoccupied” with creating an offering that will compete with incoming SUVs from exotic brands like Bentley and Maserati.

Mr McGovern spoke of “a desire to create what I call an Uber Range Rover which is totally bespoke”.

Jaguar Land Rover director of group sales operations Phil Popham said the Range Rover’s all-new aluminium architecture provides the brand with opportunities to “expand the price range again, and extend that in terms of feature and the attributes the car has got”.

Mr Popham said the new high-end SUV entrants serve to “expand the appeal of the luxury and uber-luxury SUV market”.

“This has to be beneficial to the benchmark in that segment and beneficial to the product and brand that invented that segment,” said Mr Popham.

“We actually think that competition is a good thing.

“One thing we are aware of is the Range Rover customer is not stupid. They are actually high achievers, affluent people, and successful. They will pay if you can actually give them features, but you have got to give them substance.”

Mr McGovern agreed: “There is the potential to take Range Rover right up there, but it has to be all about the execution.

“A lot of people have said to me, are we worried about Bentley? If anything it just sharpens our game – we have got all the prerequisites to be in that sector of the market and I think if we can build the right type of vehicle we can get that sort of price for it.”

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