The problem of Solihull
Solihull is still a problem for the company. Although quality is on the rise, this facility has in some ways not totally left the days of BL behind. Moreover, it is struggling with three different platforms. The Range Rover’s steel BMW-designed chassis, the T5-based Discovery and Range Rover Sport and the labour intensive Defender. If Solihull is not to be wound down over the next five years, the management need to reduce the duplication of effort and parts inventories. The Defender would probably be best re-located to India.
Those reliability issues…
Retiring the Defender abroad opens up another opportunity. In the 1970s and 80s, poor quality allowed Land Rover to lose its grip on the huge market for rugged off roaders in Australia, Africa, the Middle East and South America. Toyota walked into this slot and made it it’s own. So what about another pitch at the market with a series of T5-based vehicles? Perhaps leading with a sort of simplified Discovery, with in-field serviceability and first-grade reliability? And, eventually, crew-cab and pick-up spin-offs?
Lighter equals better
Weight saving. Unless Jaguar-Land Rover eventually becomes part of a much bigger automotive group, there will be huge pressure to reduce weight and fuel consumption under EU and Californian regulations. Land Rover has the bigger task ahead of it. How is it possible to make a Range Rover more fuel-efficient? Using both aluminium technology and a hybrid drivetrain will simply make an expensive vehicle even more expensive. Dropping conventional four-wheel drive on all future models could be part of an answer, using electric rear-wheel motors to provide the grip and go on demand.
A Qashqai for Land Rover?
How far should Land Rover go down the road of building smaller, more road-friendly vehicles? The LRX will probably go down the line at Halewood in the next 18 months, replacing the aged Jaguar X-Type. Land Rover has strongly emphasised that the LRX will not be a budget machine – indeed, if Los Angeles is a target market, the LRX cannot make a profit without a healthy dollar price tag. But what about a vehicle purely for Europe? The Nissan Quashqai is a runaway success. Can Land Rover ignore this market? Perhaps if it finds itself working with Fiat Auto and Tata, a cheaper, urban SUV could happen.
A more premium Range Rover
The Range Rover was originally launched under the guiding hand of Wolfgang Reitzle (who had overseen both the project at BMW and its launch under Ford ownership). A man who understood the premium market, he made a few hints about a super-high end version of the RR, powered by a V12 engine and wearing a six-figure price tag. A bespoke edition could wear bespoke aluminium panels, a more bespoke interior and a twin-turbo 5.0-litre V8.
Tata buys Jaguar and Land RoverHistory of TataJaguar: the futureJaguar: promise unfulfilledLand Rover: the world's most succesful 4x4 makerGeneva Show interview with Ratan TataGo to Chas Hallett's JLR blog