Rover rises to challenge
THE iconic Land-Rover is looking to grow its business with product and adventure in a push which could stretch as far as a range of quad bikes.
Core growth will come from four-wheel-drive products, according to Land-Rover managing director Matthew Taylor.
He ultimately wants to see the current 170,000-plus machines sold each year to grow to 250,000; many of those extra sales to be collected in the SUV-mad United States, where Land-Rover last year sold 42,000 vehicles.
But there are wide ranging opportunities to grow the brand in other directions.
There remains speculation whether this premium machine will be a Range Rover or Land-Rover but it will fill a gap between the current Range Rover and the next Discovery, also due next year.
The new Discovery reportedly will be longer, wider and lower than the current British four-wheel-drive. It will sit on a separate chassis and run with either a reworked Ford V6, new turbocharged diesel engine or a version of Jaguar's 4.2-litre V8.
With reworked Freelanders and Defenders to come, the plan is to launch five new Land-Rovers in five years, a sterling effort when there have been fewer than 10 new models in the past 50 years.
Build quality and costings issues of the past, with Land-Rover now part of the Ford empire, are claimed to be now sorted.
Land-Rover will not consider crossover machines, the soft offroaders. Ford's Premier Automotive Group already has Volvo and Jaguar under its mantle and they can better build to suit that trend, Taylor says. Land-Rover will remain hard-core (although that does not explain the Freelander).
Yet Taylor and Land-Rover have plans and aspirations to branch into other revenue areas, corners which could provide a financial cushion in hard times.
"We might look at quad bikes, for instance," Taylor says. "And we'll certainly be looking at the adventure leisure business."
Taylor already is full of praise for the scope and marketing benefits of Land-Rover's recent G4 Challenge, a series of adventure sports on four continents which used Freelanders, Defenders, Discoverys and Range Rovers.
Sixteen competitors from 16 countries, ran, scrambled, kayaked, abseiled and navigated around the New York mountains, South Africa, Australia's Pilbara region and into the Moab desert of Utah for the separator – the top four fighting it out for a Range Rover.
That was won by Belgian fighter pilot Rudi Thoelen.
Australia's Guy Andrews finished fifth after the torrid month, fighting back from losing all his points on the first day of the first leg when he and stage partner Chester Foster missed curfew by 10 seconds.
The global exercise reportedly cost $7.5 million. But whatever the price, it was a cost-effective exercise which epitomised the brand, Taylor says.
It was said to have cost less than 1 per cent of the international marketing budget.
It was cheaper than two major advertising campaigns, had more potential for spin-offs and reinforced the idea that Land-Rovers are machines to take adventurers – and their kayaks, mountain bikes and ropes – into wild spots.
The adventure leisure industry is booming, particularly in the US where it is now worth an estimated $200 billion a year.
Taylor was taken, too, with the competitors and their team spirit, even when it came to the final hour and there was only one Range Rover to win.
"G4 exceeded Land-Rover's expectations," he says. "On every level, the commitment of the people and the passion was more than we expected."
(Photo) The Land-Rover range will expand to five next season with an all-new wagon: a sporting and "baby" Range Rover designed to compete more directly with the likes of BMW's X5 and the Lexus RX330.
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My next Ford.....