JIMS 2008: LAND ROVER MILESTONES
Six decades – and still going strong
Six decades ago this year, a motoring icon made its public debut.
The occasion was the Amsterdam Motor Show, and it was here that the original Land Rover was first shown, on April 30, 1948.
Some 60 years later, the current Defender is clearly descended from that first vehicle, now known as a Series 1. Extraordinarily, they even share a couple of original parts, an oil filler plug and a cleat for tying down the canvas roof. But the rest of the vehicle technology has moved on considerably.
Today, Land Rover continues to go from strength to strength, with a five-model line-up, headed by the Range Rover, and record global sales: more than 226 000 Land Rover vehicles were sold in 2007. In fact, Land Rover is an outstanding British engineering and manufacturing success story.
The marque's manufacturing plants at Solihull (near Birmingham) and Halewood (near Liverpool), together with its R&D facilities in the English Midlands, employ a workforce of 8 500 people – and the company helps support an estimated further 40 000 jobs through its automotive suppliers.
Since the first Series I model rolled off the production line at Solihull, the vehicles created by Land Rover have defined the 4x4 market.
In 1970, the company introduced what's been called the most significant 4x4 vehicle ever, the Range Rover. It was the first 4x4 to be equally capable on the road, and off it.
Alongside the Range Rover and the Defender, the Discovery 3, the Freelander 2 and the Range Rover Sport complete Land Rover's formidable fivesome.
Land Rover's spirit of adventure has been evident from the earliest days. Adventurers, farmers, scientists, naturalists and outdoor sport enthusiasts have all used Land Rovers' legendary capability to access some of the world's most inhospitable regions.
For 60 years, the company's vehicles have also worked for a multitude of humanitarian and conservation organisations, represented today by Land Rover's formal ties with the Born Free Foundation, Biosphere, EarthWatch, the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), and the China Exploration and Research Society.
Land Rover managing director Phil Popham says the marque's history is a long and illustrious one – and the future is just as exciting.
"We are committed to maintaining our relevance and meeting the needs of our customers in a changing global environment. The exciting LRX cross-coupé concept, and its hybrid diesel powertrain, provides an early insight into our possible future.
"The LRX signals that Land Rover will continue to evolve, with capability, premium values and sustainable motoring at the top of the agenda."
Land Rover South Africa general manager of marketing and sales, Roland Reid, says that coping with the current, challenging market conditions is like using the brand's advanced Terrain Response all-wheel drive control system.
"In tough conditions such as those currently experienced by the SA new vehicle market, we simply switch to Rock Crawl Mode and overcome the obstacles put in front of us. It's a case of having to adapt, and about being able to conquer."
As result, Reid says, Land Rover has been able to maintain its market share at a time when many brands are losing ground.
"Land Rover has a lasting appeal, which translates into consistent demand for our products. But even more vital is delivering service excellence: an area in which Land Rover continues to show strong progress," Reid concluded.
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