Next-generation off-road icon due for autumn reveal as Jaguar Land Rover battles falling sales
Mark Tisshaw
28 January 2019

This year’s unveiling of the next-generation Land Rover Defender will crown the most crucial 12 months in Jaguar Land Rover’s history. 

The Defender’s reveal is scheduled for the autumn. A whole family of vehicles is set to be shown in order to demonstrate that the company is reinventing the model for the 21st century. As recent spy pictures have shown, the intention is to create a broader appeal than ever while including many nods to the model’s utilitarian 4x4 roots. 

The public unveiling of the Defender – and dealing with the inevitable backlash from purists no matter what the final production car looks like – is just one of several blockbuster events and launches JLR has in store over the next 12 months. 

Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque, the second-generation follow-up to the smash-hit original, will arrive this spring, to be followed later in the year by a heavily revised version of Land Rover’s best-selling model, the Discovery Sport. Finally the Defender will be revealed in what is turning out to be one of the most eagerly anticipated events the industry has yet seen. 

Jaguar will once again try to assert its influence on the junior executive saloon market with a heavily revised XE. Changes include a significantly updated interior, in order to give the car the kind of all-round appeal it needs to compete in the segment over and above the way it drives. 

Those changes will make it to the XF later in the year, while the company will also enjoy the crowning of its best-selling F-Pace range with a new SVR model. The company will also mark the first full year of sales of its first electric car, the I-Pace. In the background, development will continue of the next-generation – and all-electric – XJ, ahead of its likely reveal next year as a radical reinvention of Jaguar’s flagship as the firm continues its move towards being a more electric-focused brand

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This glut of important new launches arrives at a time of considerable belt-tightening at JLR. Since Tata bought JLR in 2008, its trajectory has been almost entirely upwards. However in recent months its sales and profits have been hit by a combination of a falling demand for diesel-engined models, the thawing of car sales in China brought on by the US-China trade war and the uncertainty around Brexit – an issue to which JLR is more exposed than perhaps any other manufacturer. 

Last October the company announced a turnaround plan designed to save £2.5 billion and improve cash flow over the next 18 months, including trimming the R&D budget by £1bn. The ‘Project Charge’ plan followed two straight loss-making quarters coupled with falling sales. 

The wide-ranging cost savings are being felt across the company. There have already been production shut-downs at the Castle Bromwich and Solihull plants, and the decision has been made to skip the upcoming Geneva show – an event that would cost a vast amount of money to support and attend at a time when JLR has no headline-grabbing new products to reveal. 

The best way for a car maker to extricate itself from a perceived crisis is to create innovative new products that resonate with buyers, a strategy that represents the crux of JLR’s plans for this year following a quieter 2018. 

Since Autocar published the first spy pictures of the new Defender, several other variants have also been seen testing around the company’s Midlands base, as the production line for making the mules is up and running. 

An ultra-short-wheelbase three-door version has been spied along with a much longer and larger five-door, the latter both with and without spare wheels. This trio gives a glimpse of the extent of the range, which, it is understood, will run at up to 12 variants. 

A whole host of different bodystyles, from pick-ups to soft-tops, will be spun off the new model and fitted out with everything from ultra-utilitarian interiors to super-luxury versions, in order to broaden the Defender’s appeal and make the business case stack up. Initial launch models are set to include the shorter-wheelbase model with both hard and soft-tops and the larger hard-top, all of which have already been seen testing. Prices are expected to range from £40,000 to £70,000. 

That broad appeal is at the heart of the new Defender’s business case: it must be seen as having rough and tough, go-anywhere purist appeal at one end of the scale while also having broad everyday consumer appeal that will allow it to hit the volumes of around 50,000 units per year that will make the project viable. 

A vast improvement in on-road manners will also play a key role, to which end the Defender will be built on a car-like platform and given independent rear suspension, as confirmed by the test mules. 

The spy shots give further clues to the design and engineering of the new model, including a side-hinged tailgate, short overhangs and boxy styling, all of which are designed to show the car’s off-road mettle. 

As Land Rover ramps up towards the Defender’s unveiling later in the year and an early 2020 on-sale date, development and testing of the new model will switch to the Arctic Circle for the winter months, with further hot-weather tests due in Death Valley in the US next year.

Read more

New Land Rover Defender: reveal confirmed for 2019​

Jaguar Land Rover factories to shut down temporarily in April due to Brexit​

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Comments
39

28 January 2019
How much of JLR's poor sales totals, other than Jaguar's, are down to the now obvious mistake if making the Discovery and Discovery Sport so similar looking? And the resulting loss of identity for the Discovery, killing sales? Even though they are based on completely different platforms and actually share almost zero parts, they look so alike that even a car nut like me has trouble telling them apart!
Added to this, the similar names don't help, allied to the similar looks. The average buyer would assume the Discovery Sport is a mere variant of the Discovery, the same mistake that was made with the Range Rovers.
As well as being too alike in appearance, the looks themselves are disappointing. Fair enough making the Freelander replacement look like the Rav4/CRV competitor it is, but the Disco 5 replaced the brilliant, rational Disco 3/4, a marvelous peice of modern industrial design with many great details and a wonderful road presence, with the soft generic looks that could belong to any of it's competitors, as well as it's smaller sister. For just one example, the brilliant tailgate design has now been reduced to a mere quirky quotation of offset number plate.
I personally know 4 owners of Discovery 4s that have held off replacing their vehicles because they are so disappointed in the soft generic looks of the current D5. The only good news for Land Rover is that they are very keen on seeing what the new Defender is like. But those four missing current sales that I know of are, no doubt, indicative of a very large number of missed sales.
I also note, sadly for JLR that similar comments to mine here have appeared in other online fora.

28 January 2019
concinnity wrote:

How much of JLR's poor sales totals, other than Jaguar's, are down to the now obvious mistake if making the Discovery and Discovery Sport so similar looking? And the resulting loss of identity for the Discovery, killing sales? Even though they are based on completely different platforms and actually share almost zero parts, they look so alike that even a car nut like me has trouble telling them apart!
Added to this, the similar names don't help, allied to the similar looks. The average buyer would assume the Discovery Sport is a mere variant of the Discovery, the same mistake that was made with the Range Rovers.
As well as being too alike in appearance, the looks themselves are disappointing. Fair enough making the Freelander replacement look like the Rav4/CRV competitor it is, but the Disco 5 replaced the brilliant, rational Disco 3/4, a marvelous peice of modern industrial design with many great details and a wonderful road presence, with the soft generic looks that could belong to any of it's competitors, as well as it's smaller sister. For just one example, the brilliant tailgate design has now been reduced to a mere quirky quotation of offset number plate.
I personally know 4 owners of Discovery 4s that have held off replacing their vehicles because they are so disappointed in the soft generic looks of the current D5. The only good news for Land Rover is that they are very keen on seeing what the new Defender is like. But those four missing current sales that I know of are, no doubt, indicative of a very large number of missed sales.
I also note, sadly for JLR that similar comments to mine here have appeared in other online fora.

I'm sorry but the Disco sport and Disco 5 do not resemble one another . The Sport is a great piece of design and the Disco 5 looks like a bad Korean 4x4 rip off with an arse like a hippo. If they had made the Disco5 look more like the Sport they'd be selling more . I'd also disagree about the Russian doll look , that's true of Audis and BMW, but to say a RR sport looks like a Disco 5 or Sport is daft . Hats off to McGovern (Disco 5 excepted) , he has the various models spot on and the Velar is masterclass.

28 January 2019

Calling the Freelander the 'Discovery Sport' has cheapened the Discovery name.  It is like their British Leyland predecessors applying the 'Vanden Plas' name to the Austin Allegro.

 

GZ

28 January 2019

Agree, I have a D4 Lux, want to buy RRSport or Discovery but the lack of a decent petrol engine apart from the daft 5lt v8 has prevented me from buying!

28 January 2019

Discovery sales have been steady for years until recently. Their recent decline coincides with the decline of the Chinese market in general. Renaming the Freelander to be the Discovery Sport and growing the back of the car was a massive success. It more than doubles the sales volume. Again, the recent decline coincides with the general decline in China, but also with the slightly earlier but less drastic decline in the UK.

28 January 2019

... the dog ate my sales numbers, bla bla bla...

 

Doesn't matter how many times you ( they ) say it, it doesn't make it true. JLRs sales are weak because the product they're selling isn't interesting to buyers.

GZ

28 January 2019

Combination of wrong engine, all diesel, and it is very true to say the downturn in China which is a fact, is in part one other main reason for a downturn.

28 January 2019

they are banking on the most niche model selling enough to save the company?

one poster above me is right: too many similarly looking models. the Velar looks amazing if it were by itself, but the brand design looks copy-pasted on everything.

pricing doesn't help either. the market for smaller city SUVs from Renault Captur to VW's Tiguan and Nissan's Qashqai is where the money is at right now and land rover have nothing to compete with.

28 January 2019

Is any mention of engines in the Defender.

Presumably because they’ve made a fatal mistake - they’re all diesel - so no-one will buy one.

It would make a great comedy show, if only so many peoples’ jobs didn’t  depend on JLR

Robbo

28 January 2019
McGovern and his painfully generic look are the problem.

A Land Rover showroom was a better place to be in 2015 than it is now.

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