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Is this why JLR are dropping Land Rover?

Land Rover.

As we all know, the name is to be if not retired, then at least downplayed. The logic is that people think of their cars as Defender, Discovery, and Range Rover, not Land Rover, so to simplify things the cars will be known as JLR Discovery, JLR Range Range Rover, and JLR Defender – JLR being “Jaguar Land Rover”. The name “Land Rover” will be relegated to a “trust mark”, whatever that is, and there will be a ‘House of Brands’ which means “Range Rover, Defender, Discovery and Jaguar now step forward as individual marques, projecting their individual purpose, desirability, and personality”.

I’m not entirely sure I believe JLR on this one. I’d definitely agree that the Range Rover brand stands alone, and people think of a Range Rover as a Range Rover, a car that doesn’t need any other prefix, a bit like Kylie not needing her surname. But Defender and Discovery? I have to disagree. First, the cars weren’t called Discovery in the USA during the 3 and 4 years, they were known as LR3 and LR4, and it’s generally just not that strong a nameplate in my view.

And I think most people would, when shown a Defender, say “that’s a Land Rover”, not “that’s a Defender”. I also find it incredible that they imply Land Rover isn’t a well known brand; to me, that’s just staggering. But, I don’t have the market research I’m sure they’ve done. Oh wait, the Land Rover name isn’t strong? Then how will it work as a “trust mark”?

So what else could be driving the change?

Here’s a theory. I’d suggest that the Land Rover name, brand and image is in fact well known and that is exactly why JLR are dropping it. Why?

Because the name “Land Rover” conjures up images of Defenders, Series vehicles, farmers, Camel Trophy, rough 4×4, working class, winching through mud.

This is exactly what JLR is not about. They don’t want to be associated with such imagery. Instead, it seems to me they’re now for the affluent, socially mobile class who want an ‘adventure’ vehicle that’s also luxurious and is a bit different to the MD’s BMW or the CEO’s Mercedes.

I don’t think JLR intend or want their vehicles to be seriously used offroad any more, but they need to retain some capability as a differentiator. True offroad owners are annoying; they know lots about the vehicle to irritate salespeople, they modify it, they complain about minor things that aren’t important to the company, they ask silly questions about how the 4×4 systems work, they use specialist mechanics, aftermarket companies start modifying the vehicles and people still expect warranty, the owners form clubs and ask for help, and enthusiasts start waving logos around at Places We Would Rather They Not, and generally behaving Off Brand.

Much better to have a few C-level execs or high-flying managers driving your cars to the golf clubs, marinas and skifields , hassle-free, all relying on main dealer servicing. And then you won’t get scruffy, bearded types rabbiting on about Series vehicles, making the lycra-clad adventure-picnic set uncomfortable.

Now I don’t blame JLR at all for what they’re doing. They have made some fantastic vehicles, two of which I’ve owned, and there’s a lot to be said for the current range too. But it’s clear to me they’re no longer interested in the offroading market, and that’s fine, they have to make the hard business calls and deliver shareholder value. I wish them all the best.

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