In the 1980s, in England, Land Rover produced the mythical 90 and 110, called Defender from 1989, and Range Rover. But since the launch of the latter, changes have been rare and the brand lives on its achievements. Across the Channel, fans of the brand remain loyal, but internationally the situation is getting more complicated. The Japanese Nissan and Toyota take the place of Land Rover in many markets. We must react urgently.
Since the 1970s, Land Rover has been a “safe bet” of the British Leyland group. The success of Land Rovers around the world allows, year after year, its owner to earn good margins. Under these conditions, why bother? The English group is doing badly and any development economy is welcome.
But the competition, especially Japanese, does not stay with both feet in the same shoe. In many markets, the success of the Toyota Land Cruiser is causing Land Rover to waver dangerously from its footing.
Until now, Land Rover enjoyed a situation of virtual monopoly on the wholesale 4X4 market. But things were changing, as Nigel Garton, ex-Land Rover, recalls: “The engineering team felt we were going in the wrong direction. Our competitors were now flooding the market with smaller vehicles like Daihatsu, Suzuki and Toyota. They were producing these cars cheaper and more accessible. And we were nowhere.
Added to this is an unprecedented crisis in oil-producing countries such as Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. From one day to the next, sales collapsed, in markets historically acquired by Land Rover.
We must react
Meanwhile, Land Rover introduced a five-door version of its Range Rover in 1982. Over the years, the Range became more and more chic, creating a hole in the range.
The Isuzu Trooper, Mitsubishi Pajero, Jeep Cherokee, or certain Nissan models find themselves without competition at Land Rover. The Defender, authentic 4X4 crossing is too rustic, while the Range Rover has become too luxurious and expensive.
The only solution: to develop a third range of vehicles, whose task would be to attack the Japanese head-on.
A Simpler Range
The project called “Jay” began at the end of 1986. The specifications mentioned a Range Rover base, with simplified specifications and a more adventurous style. To finance this program, alongside that of the new Range Rover, the brand must make serious savings. Land Rover is closing its 13 factories worldwide, concentrating all production at the sprawling site in Solihull, UK.
In March 1987, the “Jay” project even received a new line of credit made possible by the successful launch of the last Range in the United States. In addition to running gear almost identical to the Range, the new vehicle uses its V8 engine and gearbox.
A diesel variant, the 200 Tdi is developed by Land Rover. It remains to find a name for it.
A Successful Presentation
The names Highlander or Prairie Rover remain in contention until the end. But it is ultimately Discovery that will be chosen in the home stretch. When the Discovery makes its first public appearance in Frankfurt, the stakes are high: this Discovery must ensure the survival of the company until the 21st century, against the Japanese.
On the stand, Chris Woodark, Commercial Director of Land Rover summarizes the positioning of the Discovery: “It is a leisure vehicle which is not at all intended for the luxury sector. The Discovery is for Yuppies, the Range Rover for those who have already succeeded. »
Originally offered as a three-door only, so as not to overshadow the Range Rover, the modern style of the Discovery surprises. As early as 1990, the first developments arrived, with a V8 engine and the long-awaited arrival of the five-door model.
The Discovery Evolves
The history of the first generation Discovery is also marked by the famous Camel Trophy. The Discovery will be the vehicle of the raid between 1990 and 1997, which further reinforces its image as a franchisor.
In 1998, the Discovery underwent a major restyling, enough to speak of a second generation. The TD5 engine reinforces the range while the V8s now have 4.0 liters of displacement.
The chassis has also taken a big leap forward by adopting the ACE (Active Cornering Enhancement) system. This electronically controlled hydraulic anti-roll bar system overcomes the main flaw of the Discovery: its cornering handling, a consequence of its high gravity threshold.
A lasting success
Today, the Land Rover Discovery is still marketed, after four generations. Not only did it allow the brand to pass the milestone of the 21st century, but it knew how to respond to Japanese rivals, by modernizing the Land Rover offer.
More modern than a Defender, less luxurious than a Range Rover, the Discovery has kept the DNA of the brand, retaining the essential: its ability to drive on any terrain.
This article is originally published on ledauphine.com