Land Rover to redesign Freelander using more input from U.S. owners
MARK RECHTIN | Automotive News
DETROIT - Land Rover will redesign the next Freelander with more cues for U.S. owners, top executives say.
The company also will add higher-priced Freelander models.
The sore thumb of the franchise will be replaced in 2006 by what Land Rover design boss Geoff Upex calls "a vastly superior car."
Its base price of $27,495 will stay roughly the same.
Land Rover Managing Director Matthew Taylor said at the Detroit auto show this month that the next Freelander will have a stronger powertrain, better packaging and more features. It will stay about the same size.
The current Land Rover Freelander was "not born with the U.S. in mind," Taylor said.
As a result, Land Rover's U.S. dealers struggled to sell an overpriced and underpowered SUV with a cramped interior.
As sales attest, U.S. consumers have noticed the Freelander's shortcomings.
In 2004, Land Rover sold 5,430 Freelanders in the United States, off 43.0 percent from the 2003 figure. In 2002, its first year, 15,021 Freelanders were sold in the United States.
Upex said that too many other entrants arrived in the time it took to rework the Freelander so it could pass U.S. safety, emissions and other standards.
"It demonstrates the danger of not designing a vehicle for a market," Upex said. "Knowing the new one is coming to the U.S. market, a lot of what we do (for America) can come back to benefit the European market as well."