Can Land Rover save the Discovery brand?

Can Land Rover save the Discovery brand?

So Land Rover is planning new Defender variants in addition to the current model and the Range Rover line-up will be four models strong – but the Discovery will remain a two-model family. Where does that leave the Discovery brand, then?

Relative to the rest of the Land Rover line-up, the Discovery 5 is struggling in the market, with the Defender (made alongside it in JLR’s Slovakian factory) seemingly putting a further dent in customer demand for it. Discovery sales this year are unlikely to top 24,000 units. This drift downwards may get even more pronounced when the eightseat Defender 130 is launched next year. It will be more expensive than the Discovery, but for affluent Land Rover buyers the 130 certainly looks more like the rugged off-roader the Discovery used to be.

The Discovery Sport – which offers seven usable seats at a more affordable price – is still performing reasonably well, but it is likely to come in at under 70,000 sales in 2021.

It’s arguable that the styling of the current Discovery has missed the mark. After the ruggedness and ‘Land Roverness’ of the first three generations, the Discovery brand’s look started to drift much closer to the smoother style exemplified by the Range Rover 4. A moderate shift towards softening the Discovery’s look turned into a huge jump with the fifth-generation model, which lost almost all of its exterior ruggedness.

The great problem for JLR’s two-model Discovery brand is that it is caught between the successful Range Rover luxury SUV and the reinvented traditional Land Rover ruggedness of the Defender.

According to JLR’s brand guidelines, all three families should have “market leadership in design and engineering integrity”, with Range Rover emphasising “refinement”, Defender “durability’ and Discovery “versatility”.

While versatility is a decent peg to hang the Discovery brand off, how does that separate it from what Defenders offer? Key will be an external design language that carves the Discovery a new and distinct character but also promises to live up to the brand name: a vehicle that looks like it could be used for discovering things. It’s a tough task, but a vital one: the Discovery 6 will also set the style for the next Discovery Sport, for which JLR will be aiming to achieve six-figure annual sales in 2025 and beyond.

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