AT the launch of the new Range Rover, we stole a few minutes with JLR MD Jeremy Hicks for a chat about what the future holds for Land Rover.
What exactly makes a Range Rover different from a Land Rover?
More luxurious appointment, simply. The Range Rover is absolutely rooted in having all the core DNA, but more luxuriously appointed. Land Rovers are more about being versatile and doing what they say on the tin. With that said, we shouldn’t have a superior level of customer service for the Range Rovers rather than say for a Freelander – people are buying into the brand, and in terms of service everything should be exactly the same.
So what sort of customer service goals are you aiming for?
At the moment we’re putting every dealer through a customer immersion programme – where we’re sitting down and looking at what it is our customers want, the behaviours that they want us to exhibit, and how we start to do that. We’re also thinking ‘can we do more’ in terms of giving people a driving experience. A lot of our customers don’t really go near the terrain response system, and one challenge for us is communicating to them just what their vehicle can do.
Would you say your customer base has changed since the original Range Rover?
Two things changed really: Range Rover Sport, and Range Rover Evoque. Range Rover customers are pretty solid, Defender equally, and Discovery the same. The Freelander is in a sector where customers come in and out of brands, but it is still fairly solid. History is really, really key, but you have to be careful that you don’t get caught up in it too much. We actually had to be really careful in our recent Range Rover ad that it wasn’t a chest-puffing retrospective, and to actually keep looking forwards.
Any further models on the way? Could the hybrid power train spread as far as the Defender?
Depends – anything is possible. If we can have a hybrid Range Rover then you can do a hybrid Defender. And of course we won’t be drawn on whether any further models are on the way, but if the market opportunity is there, then we’d certainly consider filling it.
What’s the average price you’re expecting the new car to sell for – specification wise?
Well so far – this is anecdotal really – but so far, most of the cars dealers are speccing out are around £95,000, which we’d expect really. Most of them are going to be existing Range Rover owners, saying, ‘I don’t need to test-drive it, I’m having one’. The V6 mix isn’t that high, but that’s something we’re expecting will pick up over time. I might be wrong, but I suspect the existing Range Rover buyers will head straight for the V8s.
Are we right in thinking the new 3.0-litre diesel is made by Ford in Dagenham?
That’s right. We’re in the process of planning to build our own engines now, and that’s something that’ll start to happen as of 2014. In fact the factory’s already started construction up in Wolverhampton. But I like the idea that we’re employing more people in Britain – when I started it was 20,000, and now it’s 25,000.
How are JLR doing in general?
Well. Jaguar actually has the capability to grow – last month with XF we got over 30 per cent, XK equally if you take out diesel rivals, and with XJ we’re neck-and-neck at 25 per cent. So in actual fact we need to have more cars. The Range Rover was down slightly as it’s a run-out model now, but Land Rover in general is up.
How have TATA been as owners?
Fantastic, fantastic. They’ve given us almost complete autonomy. They have a great interest in the company, attending design reviews with Ian (Callum) and Gerry (McGovern), they will come and have a real interest in what’s going on. We have a thing called TATA business excellence, where they come and review us financially, but basically we’re left to our own devices. I’ve only met Rattan (Tata) once, but he has a number two – Ravi – and he’s over quite a lot, which is good.