The Land Rover Writer

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Land Rover Comes to the New York Auto Show

It doesn't seem that long ago but Land Rover returned to the US market 25 years ago, in 1987, when they formed a new entity then called Range Rover North America.

17 years after its creation the much-sought after Range Rover made it into the USA. Oddly, when you look at the first ad brochures in the UK for the car, you find that it references work on "ranches," implying that it was destined for the USA. 

Land Rover seemed to sell every one of them they made; indeed they were back ordered at the Solihull factory for quite a while. Maybe that's one reason they didn't need to export them into the increasingly fussy US market. The other was likely the price point to luxury ratio. By the time you converted the cost in British pounds to dollars, you wound up with a fairly steep price. So Land Rover had to wait until they brought the vehicle upscale in terms of American expectations. When they did create the four door model and laid down carpeting, gussying up the interior and practicing with the Vogue editions in the UK, they deemed it ready for the US.

It arrived with the kind of advertising campaign that quickly restored the British to leadership in refreshingly enjoyable advertising. 

I have to remember, too, that while enthusiasts paid attention to Land Rover, most of the US market only knew the marque from old safari television shows and movies, bad experiences from British Leyland dealerships, or as "old cars" you might see in rural settings. The MSRP sticker number would seem high to Americans who did not identify the Range Rover as a premium automobile.

Geof Miller, one of the engineers who helped create the Range Rover, spoke about the experience at the 1998 Land Rover 50th celebration at Eastnor Castle in England. He told us of the time that a skeptical German importer scoffed at the ["No one will pay that much money for a Land Rover!"] asking price while taking a ride in the new Range Rover. Geof claimed the driver said," why don't we go this way?" and pointed the  car into a field. As it bounded along at full tilt the German held on in amazement. When they drove out onto the paved road, he declared himself ready to bring the Range Rover onto the continent. 

Land Rover bought a '88 Range Rover in California, bought a lot of parts from Rovers North, brought Pete Janney from Badger Engineering to help refurbish the interior, and will show it off at the New York Auto Show in April. I'll be there to join the celebration!

Congratulations to Land Rover North America - I look forward to the 50th!