Land Rover Will Stick an SUV in Whatever Part of Its Lineup It Wants and Price It Based on “Personality”

It’s 2017. If this isn’t The Year Of The Luxury SUV, then surely we’re fast approaching The Year Of The Luxury SUV.

Therefore, Land Rover can pretty well do whatever it wants. “A brand like ours,” says Land Rover’s chief design officer Gerry McGovern, “has this ability to stretch.”

Bentley Bentayga rival? “Absolutely,” McGovern says.

Identically sized Range Rovers? “If they had two personalities then they’ve both got equal appeal but to different customers,” McGovern tells Automotive News Europe.

There’s no reason to doubt Land Rover’s self-belief.

2017 is a year of significant transition for the Land Rover, as the LR4 is replaced by the Discovery and the Velar steps in to fill a gap on the dance floor between the Evoque, Range Rover Sport, and Discovery, hoping to avoid stepping on any toes. The sales picture is consequently not particularly rosy. In the U.S., Land Rover volume is down 2 percent this year following 2016’s record performance.

But the brand’s momentum is obvious. Year-to-date, sales of the Discovery Sport, Range Rover Evoque, Range Rover Sport, and Range Rover are all rising. Collectively, the quartet is up 11 percent in a market that has slowed in seven consecutive months.Moreover, the high-end Range Rover portion of the Land Rover brand accounts for three-quarters of the brand’s sales. And the best-selling member of the three-engined Range Rover lineup? Not the diesel, not the supercharged V6, but the supercharged V8 that commands a $18,245 premium over base Range Rovers.

Those who doubt Land Rover’s ability to squeeze a model into a gap need look no further than the Range Rover Evoque. Less spacious than the Discovery Sport but significantly more costly, Land Rover USA has reported 68,160 Evoque sales since 2011. Even in old age, there’s a chance 2017 will be its best year ever.

Reach further back to 2005 and remember how odd it seemed that Land Rover would bring the Range Rover brand downmarket with an LR3-based Range Rover Sport.

The Range Rover Sport is Land Rover USA’s best-selling model.

Now it’s the Range Rover Velar’s turn to prove that Land Rover can succeed when it does as it pleases. If the Range Rover Sport was originally intended to be the road-focused Land Rover, the Range Rover Velar has usurped control of that position.

Following the Velar, it will be the Defender’s turn to once again exert’s Land Rover’s historic off-road proposition. But that hardly sounds as though that will be the end. McGovern sees Land Rover as two families: Range Rover and Discovery. “For me, a family is more than two and with Discovery we’ve only got two vehicles,” McGovern says, “so there are a lot of opportunities.”

Velar. Defender. Another member of the Disco tribe. And beyond?

“There’s a lot of talk that in 25 years kids won’t have a desire to drive a car, that people won’t own cars any more,” McGovern says. “Nobody is talking much about the fact that people have a visceral desire to own vehicles that they enjoy and that resonate on an emotional level.”

McGovern, who previously worked at Chrysler, Peugeot, and Lincoln-Mercury, believes design will set Land Rover apart. “Design is the glue.”

[Images: Jaguar Land Rover]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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