Currently reading: JLR revives Freelander name for new range of electric cars
JLR and joint-venture partner Chery will build new "mainstream" EVs in China, with plans for global sale

JLR will resurrect the Freelander name for a new line of electrified cars in China - and it plans to eventually export them worldwide.

The new models will be built on architecture supplied by the company's joint-venture partner, Chery, which currently builds the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Range Rover Evoque, Jaguar E-Pace and long-wheelbase versions of the XF and XE saloons.

The two companies have been partnered for 12 years and will now "strengthen" the Chery Jaguar Land Rover (CJLR) product offering with a new range of bespoke electrified models built in the city of Changshu in east China.

"The new model of collaboration leverages fully both parties' complementary strengths," JLR said, "with Chery holding a leading automotive market position in China while JLR has unrivalled heritage and design strength – creating mutually beneficial prospects for the future."

Sold under the Freelander brand, these new models will be seen as "independent from both Chery’s existing portfolio and JLR’s modern luxury House of Brands". JLR will still launch electric Land Rover models for other global markets using the MLA and EMA modular platforms, and Jaguar will introduce a new line of luxury EVs using the bespoke JEA platform. 

Freelander EVs are described as being designed and engineered for the "mainstream", and while they will be sold exclusively in China initially, JLR says they will be exported globally "over time", without giving further details on planned markets or timelines.

JLR CEO Adrian Mardell said: "Today we are taking this important strategic step for JLR, one which underlines our ongoing commitment to China and complements our existing business in China. 

"We believe that working together to develop new models of collaboration for the world’s largest and fastest-growing electric vehicle market, combined with the appeal of the Freelander brand, promises a very exciting future for CJLR.”

Back to top

Neither company has given any technical details, but widespread reports in Chinese media say that the platforms will be shared specifically with Chery premium brand Exeed, which itself plans to launch in Europe by 2026.

One of these, reports say, will be the M3X platform developed in partnership with Magna International. This structure – used by the Exeed RX and Chery Fulwin T10 SUVs – can accommodate both pure-combustion and plug-in hybrid powertrains, but it is expected that Freelander cars will offer only the latter.

Chery's latest 'Super Hybrid' PHEV drivetrain combines a petrol engine with a pair of electric motors in the gearbox – a set-up Chery refers to as a world first – with a large-capacity battery supplying an EV-only range of up to 99 miles.

The other architecture is known as E0X and is engineered for battery-electric and range-extender drivetrains, with an 800V charging architecture and the option of front-, rear- and four-wheel drive.

Both architectures have a variable wheelbase and can be used for both crossovers and lower-slung models, but JLR has yet to confirm whether Freelander will remain an SUV-only brand. 

Chery's range-extender (REx) technology is likely to have been particularly attractive to JLR, given the surging popularity of the format in China. From January to September last year, sales of REx cars – known there as extended-range EVs (EREVs) – soared by 157% to 400,000 units.

Back to top

Conventional PHEVs remain more popular outright, but REx sales are growing more quickly - in part because buyers can take advantage of many of the same incentives as pure-EV owners, while retaining a combustion engine for added range. 

JLR is one of several Western car manufacturers moving to strengthen their footing in China by working with local manufacturers and using China-dedicated vehicle platforms. 

Volkswagen, for example, will launch a pair of mid-sized EVs in China using Xpeng's platforms in 2026, and sibling brand Audi has agreed to use architecture from SAIC premium brand IM Motors for its own range of Chinese EVs. 

The original Land Rover Freelander – a family-focused crossover – was replaced in 2016 by the Discovery Sport and the name has not been used since. 

In 2020, Autocar revived the Freelander name for its own hypothetical EV brand (pictured, top), which would have used the Jaguar I-Pace's platform for a range of mainstream crossovers aimed primarily at China. 

Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: Deputy editor

Felix is Autocar's deputy editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
TStag 19 June 2024
I understood that Land Rover had to partner with Chery to launch a new Car brand as a requirement by the Chinese government to set up a JV there. With that in mind I think this is a master stroke. JLR can split the risk of chasing volume with a partner, whilst giving future customers a cheaper way to start to access their brand
Symanski 19 June 2024

This seems like a hasty kneejerk reaction to realising that they've completely messed up with their all-electric plans.   Only this should be a new One Series or A-Class rival with a Jaguar badge, not Land Rover.


And it should be an Evoke, like the I-Pace should have shared its platform with a Range Rover too.


Yet, as further proof JLR have some of the worst management, they're only selling this in China.   Other countries to follow but you can rule out Europe and USA simply from the omission of those regions in their statement.


Commenter 19 June 2024
Spares land rover from needing to convincing buyers that Freelander is premium like discovery if it chooses not to wear land rover badges, especially if it decides to tune it differently to have driving experience