21 November 2003

Land Rover product planners and designers are considering a £12,500 entry-level model positioned below the Freelander.

The idea of a small Land Rover, known internally as ‘The Landie’, was rumoured two years ago, but is now moving higher up the product-planning agenda. If given the go-ahead, the new 4x4 would become the sixth model in Land Rover’s expanding range, and would be with us in 2007 or 2008.‘There is no reason why Land Rover should be restricted to SUV and large 4x4 vehicles’, said our source. ‘We are looking to see if we can go other places.’

And Land Rover managing director Matthew Taylor said: ‘We have to decide what a small Land Rover would be like, how it would be profitable and at what volume. At today’s money, it would be in a price bracket at around the £12,500 mark.’

A small Land Rover would help develop a new market segment, because today the number of compact 4x4 models currently available is limited, although a number of manufacturers are looking to launch Landie competitors.

Jeep has revealed several concepts of small 4x4s, like the Treo, shown at last month’s Tokyo show, while Mercedes is considering an A-Class SUV and Volkswagen is planning a Golf-based 4x4. BMW may also find it hard to resist a 4x4 spin-off of the new 1-series.

But making a business case for the small Land Rover will be difficult and depends on a relatively high production volume to offset the low list price. The company would most likely have to develop the car jointly with Ford, Mazda or Volvo in order to get costs down to realistic levels.

Alternatively, the proposed Landie could be derived from the new L315 Freelander platform, itself a joint venture with Volvo.All sales would have to come from Europe, Asia and the Rest of the World. The all-important US market, which currently takes 25 per cent of all Land Rover production, is understood to have ruled out a vehicle smaller than the Freelander.

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