Land Rover has embarked on a massive new model blitz that could more than double its annual sales by 2020. It is almost certainly the biggest investment that the UK car industry has ever seen. Land Rover’s future model line-up will fully cover the three main areas of the booming global SUV market — luxury, leisure and utility.
According to Land Rover’s design director Gerry McGovern, the brand is set to expand all three of its model families. The plans include additional models for the Range Rover line-up, a new Defender family and a radical expansion of the Freelander range that will create four new ‘leisure’ SUVs during the next seven years.
Land Rover sources refuse to estimate the potential size of the car-maker once the seven-year plan has been introduced. However, market data suggests the global SUV market will reach 22 million units by 2020. If, by radically expanding its line-up, Land Rover captured around three per cent of that market, it would be close to producing 600,000 vehicles annually.
According to what McGovern describes as a “holistic approach” to its future range, Land Rover plans to extend the Range Rover line-up to six models, including an ‘Evoque XL’, which slots into the hole that currently exists between the Evoque and the new Range Rover Sport and a convertible Evoque. A baby three-door Range Rover just 4m long is also being considered.
The new Land-Rover-badged ‘leisure’ line-up will have at least five new models, kicking off with an entry-level Freelander similar in size to today’s Evoque. The Freelander itself will be reinvented in five-seat and seven-seat forms. The range will be topped by a new Discovery, which could switch to an aluminium platform, and be offered as a flagship to rival the successful BMW X5.
In the ‘dual purpose’ or ‘utility’ segment, Land Rover’s plan indicates that a production version of the Evoque-based DC100 is heading for the showroom, as well as the long-discussed replacement for the Defender.
McGovern’s plan shows outline drawings for five-seat and seven-seat new Defenders as well as a crew-cab pick-up.
This dramatic expansion will put a huge strain on the investment and engineering capabilities of Jaguar Land Rover. JLR boss Ralf Speth has already spoken about 40 new JLR product launches in the next five years. He has pledged £2bn a year to underpin this, with the £10bn investment funding at least one new platform, plus increased capacity in the UK.
However, not all of this investment is expected to be focused on the UK. JLR is wisely spreading its production footprint around the world to take advantage of booming global markets.
Reports from China in early October said that the JLR joint venture with Chinese car maker Chery gained approval in record time from the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission.
About £1.8 billion will be invested in a new Chinese plant that will, in the first stages, have the capacity to build 130,000 vehicles per year, about 60 per cent of which will be Land Rover models.
Reports say that Land Rover sales in China hit 47,975 units in the first eight months of the year, 85 per cent up on the same period in 2011. Its 96 Chinese dealer outlets will also soon be expanded by a further 47 showrooms.
China is now JLR’s second biggest market, just behind the UK, and Chinese tastes are increasingly turning away from conventional luxury saloon cars towards SUVs.
Buyers of premium vehicles in China and Russia are also pushing for the opportunity to buy more limited-edition vehicles and customised styling packs, an opportunity JLR’s design teams are eager to capitalise on.
Back in the UK, JLR has put the finishing touches to its new aluminium press shop at Solihull and has just completed a new quality inspection building for the new Range Rover and its future sister vehicles.
Work is also underway on the new JLR engine factory to be built in the West Midlands/Staffordshire area, while much of the research work into a new generation of super-frugal four-cylinder ‘Hotfire’ engines is being carried out by UK universities, including Warwick and Loughborough.