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by Tim Beissmann

The boss of Land Rover Australia says Germany’s three powerhouse luxury brands are taking more notice of the premium British SUV manufacturer today than ever before.

Jaguar Land Rover Asia Pacific managing director David Blackhall said while Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz may not quiver with fear over the Indian-owned Gaydon-based car maker, vehicles like the Range Rover Evoque were proving hard for them to ignore.

“We’re not egotistical enough to think we’re going to have the Germans sweating tears of blood … but for the first time in a long time they do hear our footsteps,” Blackhall said.

“[BMW Australia managing director] Phil Horton … for the first time in a long time called me up and said, ‘Can I borrow an Evoque?’ I said, ‘Yeah, but you let me have an X3.’

“So we swapped cars for the first time ever, and all that means is they’re paying attention to us, which is in a way a compliment.”

Australian-born engineer Murray Dietsch, who is director of Land Rover programs in the UK and fundamental in the process of taking Evoque from concept to production, said the phenomenon was not unique to our market.

“One of the things that is somewhat refreshing … is that [the German manufacturers] are actually taking notice of us now and they probably weren’t years ago,” Dietsch said. “And that’s not just because of Evoque, it’s because of all of the other product that we’ve got.

“Are they nervous? Are they scared? Perhaps not. But they’re definitely in the mix of making sure they know what we’re doing.”

Dietsch said Audi in particular was keen to get its hands on the Evoque even before Land Rover had finished development of the car.

“Audi AG through the Audi UK group asked whether they could borrow a pre-production Evoque,” he said.

“They said they were going to give us a Q3 and that was probably five months out from their launch. They were going to give us a pre-production car, which I’d never heard of them doing before.”

Dietsch said the German trio was Land Rover’s key focus when assessing its new vehicles against the competition.

“Typically BMW has been the benchmark for dynamics, whereas Audi has been more their perceived quality or their attention to detail.

“We are out. We have their products, buy their products and have them on-hand, whether it’s ride development or interior activities or NVH development.”

Dietsch admitted aspiring luxury rivals Lexus and Infiniti did not historically blip as loudly on Land Rover’s radar in the benchmarking process.

“Probably not as much as they should perhaps. We’re a bit ‘Warwickshire-based’ at the moment. They’re a long way away.

“We will, where they’ve released some potential pieces of technology, have a look at them, making sure that we understand what everyone has got in their cars.

“But not typically. We wouldn’t have an Infiniti on our fleet of competitor vehicles for instance. We’ve had [Lexuses] on the fleet from time to time, but again we’re probably positioning ourselves a lot more against the German brands. They’re our focus.”

Between January and November, 7310 Land Rover/Range Rover vehicles were sold across Australia. Over the same period, Audi sold 13,338 vehicles (including 5079 Q3, Q5 and Q7 SUVs), while BMW delivered 16,907 (6595 X1, X3, X5 and X6s) and Mercedes-Benz sold 20,313 passenger and commercial vehicles (including 2869 M-Class, G-Class and GL-Class models).




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