Land Rover had no choice but to build a smaller, lighter and more economical entry-level model. It’s not just the EU’s fearsome CO2 regulations that the company has to consider. It also cannot ignore the size of the European market for more affordable medium-sized SUVs.
BMW is currently making hay in Europe with the X1, which undercuts the Discovery by £4000 or so and achieved around 111,000 sales last year. By contrast, the Discovery Sport managed around 45,000 sales in Europe.
But it’s the upmarket mainstream models such as the Volkswagen Tiguan that are absolutely flying. It’s hard to believe this VW model netted global sales of over 860,000 units in 2018, ahead of the Polo and the Golf. And around 275,000 of those were in Europe alone.
Land Rover is hardly going to compete with the Tiguan in sales terms, but if it can offer a base model at a comparable starting price, the potential is significant, especially as the company usually has a head start with styling and brand cachet.
News that the company is planning a pure-electric version of the new Defender can’t really be a surprise, either, because the mantra that ‘premiumness is indivisible from greenness’ has been ringing in the industry’s ears for years. It’s one of the reasons the new Jaguar XJ will kick off as a battery-electric car.