Land Rover says it killed off its Freelander nameplate to improve its ability to steal sales from Germany’s big-selling mid-sized luxury SUVs, the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
The Discovery Sport is being repositioned as a more premium offering than its predecessor, with pricing in Australia that at least initially starts above rather than below $50,000 – from $53,300.
“Freelander always almost sat on its own to a certain degree and was a hard model to define,” says Land Rover Australia’s general manager of communications, Tim Krieger. “Was it a model that played with the Japanese and Koreans or was it a luxury competitor? We never really resolved that.
“X3, Q5 … that’s absolutely where we see this [Discovery Sport] vehicle.”
The Freelander sold in 1156 units in 2014 locally – outsold by the Discovery (2701 units), Evoque (2584) and Range Rover Sport (2576).
Freelander sales have sat between the 800 to 1200 mark in recent years but Land Rover Australia’s operations director Matthew Wiesner says the Discovery Sport will perform a far more significant role in growing local sales beyond 2014’s record 10,106 units.
“Discovery Sport’s role is significant from a Land Rover brand point of view,” he said. “This vehicle is going to be way more aspirational, way more relevant in regards to role compared with Freelander in its segment.
“We can not only draw down from the Germans, but at the same time the Korean and Japanese brands are also in that $50-60K space – and the aspirational nature of the Land Rover brand will also draw people from there.”
The run-out Freelander 2 (pictured above) is currently priced from $42,300, significantly lower than the Disco Sport’s first price point though it’s a two-wheel-drive model.
Land Rover Australia won’t confirm yet whether it will take an upcoming 2WD version of the Discovery Sport, though for now the model’s value proposition is stronger versus comparable Freelanders, including features such as navigation, auto tailgate and electric seats as standard from the base model upwards.
“We don’t need to have a $49,990 car. Definitely not,” said Wiesner. “If you index down all that value, when you consider compelling value argument of the Discovery Sport, there’s no reason we can’t pull in people from below that $50K mark into this product.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport becomes the first model in the mid-size luxury SUV segment to offer up to seven seats, with an optional third row.
Land Rover Australia says it expects the take up for the seven-seat version to be relatively high.