Land Rover is considering building a baby SUV. It would be sold across the world and make the brand the premium contender in a market niche that is set to rocket in popularity.
Land Rover’s global brand director, John Edwards, confirmed recently that such a model is being examined by the firm’s product planners.
“I can see a sub-compact SUV working in all markets… and I don’t see a reason not to do it in the future,” he said. However, Edwards also cautioned that he has yet to see a convincing proposition for the new model.
If it gets the green light, the new Land Rover is expected to be about four metres long (30cm shorter than today’s Evoque). Some sources say it would be based on a bespoke platform likely to be shared with Jaguar Land Rover’s Indian owner, Tata, and new Chinese partner Chery.
Indian sources say Tata engineers are leading the work on a new generation of diesel and petrol engines sized at 1.4 and 1.6 litres, which could be used in the baby SUV. The 1.6 could also be used by Jaguar.
Pricing for the baby Land Rover is expected to start at £18,000. That will put it at the top end of the segment, making it more expensive than the Mini Countryman and slotting under the next-generation Freelander, which is likely to be priced from £23,000. Entry models are likely to be front-wheel drive.
The baby Land Rover’s styling is expected to be a further development of the theme launched by the DC100 concept cars. It will also be influenced by the look of the all-new Defender, which, Autocar understands, has already been signed off for production.
According to figures from analysts at Credit Suisse, global sales of B-segment SUVs from established manufacturers are set to rocket from last year’s total of one million units to more than 2.5 million units in 2020. It’s a niche that Land Rover cannot ignore.
The new SUV could be the first Land Rover to be built entirely abroad. The company is reported to be “actively” investigating sourcing a model solely from India.
Tata’s Del Sehmar has been quoted as saying that JLR has “ambitious” plans to expand production globally.
JLR is investing £1.1 billion in a new Chinese factory with Chery. It has also revealed plans to source aluminium from Saudi Arabia and is working on a project to press panels and eventually build cars there. South America is being eyed up for a production project, too.
“We have a lot of aspirations for India,” said Edwards, “but that is all they are at present. Our expansion plans are very clear. We have a joint venture in China, which is approved, so we are working hard with Chery and then looking at three priorities to expand our global footprint: India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.
“We continue to look at opportunities for a smaller, cheaper Land Rover but — if we did it — it certainly wouldn’t be exclusive to India. It would have to work in other markets.”
The firm is looking at “all opportunities to grow Land Rover”, he said. “The SUV segment is the fastest-expanding sector. There’s room for crossovers, pick-ups, small sub-compact SUVs. We are definitely looking at opportunities, but we haven’t decided yet on small cars.
“The DNA of the brand is a car that can go from A to B in any conditions, so that means every car we plan will be a global one. But a baby Land Rover has got to work for the business as well as the brand, and I’m still waiting to see a business proposition that works. I need to be convinced.”