Lisa Curtiss talks To Phil Popham, Managing Director of Land Rover
It’s been a challenging couple of years for Land Rover. With a line-up of class-leading off-roaders, Land-Rover’s previous owner, Ford, put the company on a path to greatness before it sold the company to Italian industrial giant Tata. Lisa Curtiss caught up with Land Rover Managing Director, Phil Popham, just after the launch of the new stop/start Freelander for an update on Land Rover’s progress.
Q: How is the recession affecting the company worldwide?
A: The global economic downturn coupled with the credit crunch and lack of general consumer confidence in major markets is impacting on virtually all car sales and especially in the premium segment where Land Rover operates. The growth markets of Russia, China, Brazil and MENA have helped to compensate for reductions elsewhere, but even these are showing signs of a slowdown. There have been some production changes at Solihull to avoid stockpiling of vehicles. We have and will continue to take swift and decisive actions for the benefit of the business.
Q: How is the relationship with new owners Tata going? Has it had any tangible impact on development?
A: We’re looking at an exciting and successful future with our new owners who’ve stated they’re here for the long term. They have a good understanding of the global market and the significant headwinds we are facing. Our task is to unlock the immense potential of the Land Rover (and Jaguar) brand around the world.
Q: How is the relationship with Ford now, as they are no longer owners of Land Rover?
A: Ford is still one of our biggest suppliers of engines and this is set to continue. There is still an ongoing transition process across the business which will continue for at least a couple of years.
Q: Could you update us on LRX? Is it heading into production yet?
A: LRX is currently only a concept, created both to help us explore the idea and to gauge customer reaction before we make a decision on production. We need to ensure a solid business case. Internally, our initial response to the concept is incredibly positive, but we have no production plans yet.
Q: What are your sales targets per annum for the Freelander 2 TD4_e?
A: The Freelander 2 is our volume product and in the UK and throughout Europe, the diesel variants make up about 97 per cent of all Freelander 2 sales. Currently the split between diesel automatic and manual is about 50/50 across the globe. We would expect the split to change towards the manual with the introduction of the TD4_e with intelligent stop/ start technology.
Q: You are only offering the stop start system on manual Freelanders, can we expect an alternative for automatic buyers?
A: This is just the first application of technology from our e_TERRAIN TECHNOLOGIES programme. We are currently developing Stop/Start systems that could be used on other Land Rovers.
Q: Which is the most popular Freelander 2 trim level? S/XS/SE/HSE/HST?
A: Historically, the HSE trim level is globally the most popular.
Q: Why is it that the 2.2 turbodiesel engine develops 160bhp in the Freelander 2, when Ford and Peugeot have the same engine developing 173bhp? What are the differences between the two engines?
A: The engine has been tuned by our engineers to deliver more torque and power to ensure the capability attributes of a Land Rover are met. The Freelander delivers 295lb ft of torque which ensures class-leading off-road capability and towing power.
Q: Are there any plans for additional Freelander 2 variants in the near future? Seven seat versions? Alternative turbodiesel engine options?
A: As you know, we never discuss future products!
Q: What is the best selling Land Rover model?
A: The Freelander 2 TD4.