LONDON - The pressure is off Jaguar and Volvo now that Land Rover is set to become part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group lineup. Neither brand will be obliged to offer a sport-utility.
Jaguar does not consider an off-road vehicle part of its image of luxury, sleek styling and refined power. The Land Rover acquisition also means Volvo will not have to stray far beyond its recently unveiled V70 Cross Country, a station wagon with sport-utility styling cues.
BMW's surprising decision to sell Land Rover to Ford for $2.9 billion was the best kind of news for Premier Automotive Group, which also includes Aston Martin and Lincoln.
Land Rover is ideally suited to Premier Group Chairman Wolfgang Reitzle's global strategy. Its growth plans almost mirror those of Premier - and Jaguar in particular. Jaguar hopes to grow its volume dramatically with a smaller vehicle, the X400 or 'Baby Jag,' due in 2001. With the coming launch of the Freelander in America, Land Rover has a similar growth strategy.
'I guess if there were one car that sits on more Jaguar owners' driveways, it would have to be Range Rover,' said Roger Putnam, Jaguar's global sales and marketing chief. 'Land Rovers do something none of the other trucks do - they have that heritage flavor.
'All of us feel extremely excited about the prospect - to have the ability to get such a share of somebody's garage with the portfolio we have,' Putnam said.
Jaguar and Land Rover used to be stablemates when the two companies were owned by British Leyland before the breakup of that company.
Land Rover gives Premier the missing piece in its luxury puzzle - a full lineup of luxury sport-utility vehicles with a global presence. Land Rovers are sold at about 1,800 dealer points in 125 countries worldwide.
In many cases, the Land Rover stores are combined with Rover Cars and the other Rover brands, including Mini and MG.
Land Rover has branded its dealerships 'Land Rover Experience Centers' in a few locations, including the USA and Canada. Some of those centers include small off-road driving tracks and sell Land Rover brand clothing and other merchandise.
Land Rover offers luxury holidays, Page 16