Is Land Rover developing into the most exciting and innovative manufacturer of them all?
It could be following the recent announcement that by next year it will have in the showrooms a model that will be two-wheel drive (!) with a CO2 footprint of less than 130 g/km.
This is a landmark event for Land Rover, a model that proclaims loud and clear that the companys vision of its future is founded on clean, green cars. Those who see Land Rover as the embodiment of all that is evil in terms of automotive pollution will have to find a new target for their vitriol.
Land Rover is embracing a raft of technologies an aggressive weight saving programme involving the use of lighter materials and yes, two-wheel drive instead of the heftier extra propshafts where appropriate plus hybrid powerplants to achieve its ambitious goals.
It has travelled a very long way in a very short time down the road of future-proofing its products against what is sure to be ever stricter tax penalties for the worst polluters. I recall being at the London International Motor Show only two years ago where LR executives committed to this course, and setting mpg and CO2 targets that seemed almost fantasy.
But Ford (then owners of Jaguar and Land Rover) began a 1 billion-plus programme to make all its cars greener and cleaner and current owners, TATA, have continued it in an 800 million project.
The compact Range Rover, pictured here under its prototype codename of LRX, is the first fruit of this programme but it is only the tip of the iceberg; both Land Rover and Jaguar will soon be making cars that are dramatically less polluting than is currently achievable.
By 2013 there will be a diesel hybrid in the showroom. Testing of it begins later this year with a Range Rover Sport chassis fitted with a 3.0 V6 diesel and an eight-speed gearbox. The CO2 target figure for it is under 100 g/km….
Three years ago I was interviewing the head of a reasonably large and successful multi-franchise dealership based in my native North Staffordshire. At the time the media was all in a froth about the `Chelsea Tractors and he said he was glad he didnt have a Land Rover franchise in his portfolio because he couldnt see a future for the company and he wasnt alone in that view.
I wonder what he thinks today because Land Rover is going to make him – and many others – eat their words.
Copley Land Rover and Rocar Moores Land Rover are Land Rover dealerships in the Perrys Group.