Land Rover design chief, Gerry McGovern, has told Australian media that Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) will only serve to broaden the appeal – and reach – of the iconic luxury off-road brand.
Land Rover featured the three pillars of SVO at the Los Angeles motor show: Autobiography, R and X – all of which focus on various aspects of the brand. Range Rover gets the top-end 'Autobiography' treatment, Sport gets the hardcore 'R' badge, and Discovery becomes even more capable off-road with the 'X' badge.
“We’ve tried to broaden the appeal of the brand, not just Range Rover, but Land Rover in general,” McGovern said. “Previously, the Land Rover brand was very specialist, but we have moved it into vehicles that are more universally desirable, not just generic.”
While the rush to develop SUVs is nothing new, most buyers never take their vehicles off-road – no matter how capable they are. The counter argument is simple: anything wearing a Land Rover badge needs to be capable in the rough stuff, given the history and heritage of the brand.
However, SUVs have become just as much of a style and luxury statement, in a segment kick-started by the original Range Rover. McGovern knows the luxury, specialist corner of the segment is lucrative and important for all manufacturers to consider.
One element SVO will capture is the customisation and bespoke desires of potential buyers, who previously may have been forced to the aftermarket world. McGovern would rather those buyers have the manufacturer customise their vehicle from the outset, and not just for the obvious profit-based reasons.
“We’ve seen businesses take our vehicles from the customer and charge a premium for modifications,” McGovern said. “I would rather we did it, and did it properly, designed by the people who created the product in the first place.”
It isn’t just about money according to McGovern. Rather, it's about a commodity just as valuable to car manufacturers - integrity.
“We need to protect the integrity of the engineering and the brand as well,” McGovern said. “Range Rover has a level of sophistication and British sensibility, different from Rolls Royce and Bentley as well quite frankly.”
Protecting that sense of exclusivity, quality and luxury is paramount, and Land Rover executives believe SVO can do just that.
“The prerequisite of any luxury brand is to have heritage that comes over time,” McGovern said, indicating that you can’t buy or build that kind go legacy. “A Range Rover, there is nothing else like it, and a lot of our customers don’t want the latest thing, they want the best - peerlessness.”
Range Rover is unique in that it needs to straddle both off-road capacity and luxury pretension - something few other luxury SUVs have to maintain.
“A Range Rover is what it is,” McGovern said.
“I’m keen to make sure we don’t lose that, position,” he explained. “Don’t lose that essence of what 'Range Rover-ness’ is.”
With the low volume and bespoke nature of the SVO division, Land Rover has set itself up to do just that.
“My focus is making sure the brand is curated in the right way,” McGovern said.