Land Rover: A Promising Future
One of Ford Motor Company's great untapped assets may well lie within the product portfolio encompassing Land Rover brand's sport utility vehicles. The proliferation of sport utility vehicles in the U.S. marketplace, as well as light-trucks in general, means that if managed appropriately, Land Rover may well have vast expansion prospects.
This fact becomes more evident when considering trucks are outselling cars in the first 10 months of this year, yet Land Rover is a very small player in the marketplace, even when compared to truck-specific brands, GMC and Jeep. Furthermore, there are new Land Rover models in the works that promise far more volume than current offerings.
LIGHT TRUCK SALES DOMINATE MARKETPLACE
Truck sales in the first 10 months of 2002 have outpaced car sales and there are a host of new models in the works from all the major automakers. Sport wagons, a relatively new niche in the truck segment, will likely draw customers from the sedan market in coming years, fueling light-truck sales-growth. Ford, Chevy and Dodge each sell considerably more trucks than cars. Ford, for example, has sold 1,779,140 trucks this year while selling 1 million fewer cars at 742,464. Dodge sales consist of 72% trucks to 28% cars. Truck-specific brands GMC and Jeep are numbers 7 and 10 respectively in vehicle sales. In fact, GMC outsells Pontiac, Buick and even Saturn.
LAND ROVER'S COMPARATIVELY SMALL SIZE
Land Rover is number 33 among brands sold in the U.S., yet, remarkably, LR sales this year are up 65% over last year's sales. LR has sold 33,531 trucks year-to-date and has a 0.5% share of the truck market. In comparison, GMC has sold 449,724 trucks with 6.3% of the truck market and Jeep has sold 373,099 trucks and has 5.2% of the truck market.
LAND ROVER'S FUTURE MODELS
Automotive News, in its August 12, 2002 issue, summarized upcoming LR models through 2006, incorporating a couple of new additions to the lineup. The report included the following:
At the top of the model range is a new Range Rover Sport. Based on the Range Rover platform, it will be a bit smaller and less expensive than Range Rover. The Sport is expected in 2006.
Discovery was updated for 2003, but will be redesigned, perhaps for 2004 and will likely be based upon the Explorer platform. It may have a Jaguar derived V-8, as well.
There is speculation that the Defender model will return to the U.S.
Challenger, using a car-based platform, will be positioned above Freelander. Automotive News reports it could possibly use the all-new Mazda6 platform.
A three-door Freelander arrives in December of this year. An all-new Freelander may debut in 2005, possibly based on the next generation Focus. A new, European, Focus-based sport-wagon, built on the next generation Focus platform, was shown at this year's Paris auto show.
Former PAG boss Wolfgang Reitzle started work on a mini sport-wagon concept before he left the company, however its appearance is doubtful.
SHOULD LAND ROVER CHANGE MARKET POSTIONING?
Ford Motor Company reported to the media on Friday, November 8, 2002, that Lincoln Mercury would relocate back to Dearborn, Michigan, from PAG headquarters in Irvine, California, in August 2003. With Lincoln out of the luxury division, perhaps the division's concept should be refocused even further, moving away from a strict adherence to luxury pricing for each PAG model. For example, rather than viewing LR as simply a luxury brand, LR could be marketed as a volume brand with luxury models at the upper end of the lineup. Mercedes is heading in this direction as it is considering bringing the A-class mini car to the U.S. as well as the Smart. Even BMW is moving down market with its upcoming 1-series and the new Mini.
VOLUME POTENTIAL EXISTS FOR LR
With truck sales taking a lion's share of the U.S. marketplace and LR currently a fast growing, yet comparatively small player in the market, there is seemingly exponential growth opportunity for the brand. LR market planners, in my opinion, should refocus the brand away from 'PAG luxury brand' to 'volume brand with luxury offerings'.
Considering current market demographics, it seems that if LR were to offer 2 or 3 volume sport-wagons, priced aggressively although not cheaply, against existing volume makes, there is no reason LR shouldn't be able to place among the top 15 brands in the U.S. Number 15, as the market stands now, is Saturn at 238,817. Recall that Jeep has sold 373,099 vehicles year-to-date. Ford Explorer alone is at 363,719 in just 10 months.