When I’ll Stop Laughing at Land Rover

September 29th, 2011

Land Rover DC100 Concept Sport

Land Rover has had a troubled history as a company. The original 1948 firm got sold to British Leyland in the ‘60s (maybe the worst British car group ever), then British Aerospace, then BMW, then Ford, now Tata Motors.

None of these corporate shifts appear to have done it any good. Tata merged Land Rover with Jaguar (JLR), and the company has dropped 30 percent in market value over the last six months.

The Economic Times (of India) says the company needs to develop synergies between its two brands or, perhaps, split them apart. JLR says it plans to double its sales in India this year. Who are you going to believe here?

What JLR really needs is to determine, finally, its identity in today’s marketplace. Is it going to make fashion-statement cars, like the Evoque or the DC100 Concept Sport (above, shown in Frankfurt)? Or will it return to its roots as the world’s best off-road vehicle?

Land Rover DefenderIf the company decides, as I’ll bet it will, to go with updated fashion-esque cars that are truly capable off-roaders, it will be attempting to breed a pig and a cow. The old and much-loved Defender (right) should be history.

Call the new DC100s something else, and put the money into better powerplants, improved reliability, and (I hate to say this) take the Range Rover Evoque style path. The off-roaders are an ever-diminishing group; the auto-fashionistas are everywhere.

You can’t be everything to everybody, which is the path Land Rover appears to be following. TopGear talked with LR design chief Gerry McGovern and reported:

The idea of showing these different DC100 versions [we showed you the other DC100 here] is to prove a next-gen Defender must be ‘configurable’. In other words, according to how the buyer specs the option boxes, it could be an emergency vehicle, a farmers’ transport (though without the 21-inch wheels, obviously), or a weekend toy.

To me, that makes no sense at all. Let Audi, BMW and Porsche build the luxury four-wheelers; Jeep, Subaru and Ford can do the rest. AWD has its own high-end appeal, and it’s even getting popular with Ford and GM luxury models.

The big Range Rover still appeals to the wealthy few (prices begin at $79,685), but please drop the idea of making a new Defender for every kind of market. The first step in any kind of marketing plan is to define your niche and concede the rest to others.

Is Land Rover on a good path with its DC100 concepts? Do you think Jaguar Land Rover will survive in its present form?

—jgoods

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  1. Randy
    September 30th, 2011 at 07:51 | #1

    It’s kind of sad to see an iconic product lose its way. Perhaps this is another company that probably should have failed and is searching for a new identity.

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