Land Rover predicting big sales jump in 2005 on strength of LR3, Range Rover Sport
Range Rover Sport
RICK KRANZ | Automotive News
Gasoline prices are soaring. Most SUV makers are moaning about slumping sales. Yet Land Rover is predicting a 40.0 percent jump in U.S. sales this year.
This isn't a typographical error - Land Rover is expecting sales to exceed 50,000 units, up from 35,506 in 2004.
Why is Land Rover so optimistic?
Managing Director Matthew Taylor expects the company to buck the trend because of the addition of the two models, the LR3 and Range Rover Sport.
Taylor also says potential buyers are not swayed by high gasoline prices.
"We still see the segments we compete in still relatively strong despite the fuel price issues at the moment," said Taylor, who was interviewed at a press event this month in Napa, Calif. "We tend to compete at the very top end where (the transaction price) is actually less of an issue to a lot of people."
To reach the 50,000-unit plus sales mark, Taylor expects a "big chunk of that growth" to come from the LR3. The seven-passenger LR3 replaced the Discovery. Sales began in November. In the first quarter of this year, 4,611 LR3s were sold.
The 2006 Range Rover Sport, which is scheduled to debut this summer, is Land Rover's answer to high-performance SUVs such as the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5.
Sales are expected to remain flat for the brand's flagship, the Range Rover, despite a new engine for the 2006 model year. The BMW V-8 engine has been replaced with a choice of two Jaguar-derived V-8s. Last year, 13,546 Range Rovers were sold in the United States.
But sales of the entry-level Freelander are expected to continue to drop, Taylor said. Last year, 5,430 Freelanders were sold, down from 9,529 in 2003 in the United States.
Of the Freelander, Taylor said, "We are not going to push it, and we are not going to drop it either. We will retain our presence in the segment as we work toward our next-generation product, which we think will have fabulous success in the U.S. market."
The redesigned Freelander is due in 2007.