Land Rover is a British all-terrain vehicle and Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV) manufacturer, based in Gaydon, England, UK. Originally the term Land Rover referred to one specific vehicle, a pioneering civilian all-terrain utility vehicle launched on April 30, 1948, at the Amsterdam Motor Show, but was later used as a brand for several distinct models, all four-wheel drive. Starting out as part of The Rover Car Company or Rover, Land Rovers were designed and manufactured as a range of four-wheel drive vehicles under a succession of owners, including British Leyland, British Aerospace and BMW. Today, the marque is part of the Tata Group (along with Jaguar) after a 7 year stint in the now defunct Premier Automotive Group, a division of the Ford Motor Company. Land Rover is one of the longest lived SUV brands (the only brand which is older is Jeep).
The first Land Rover was designed in 1947 in the United Kingdom (on the island of Anglesey in Wales) by Maurice Wilks, the chief designer at the British car company Rover, as a farm vehicle that could be used for everything from ploughing fields to driving in town. It is said that he was inspired by an American World War II Jeep that he used one summer at his holiday home in Wales . The first Land Rover prototype 'centre steer' was built on a Jeep chassis. A distinctive feature has been their bodies, constructed of a lightweight rustproof proprietary alloy of aluminium and magnesium called Birmabright. This material was used owing to post war steel shortages and a plentiful supply of post-war aircraft aluminium. This metal's resistance to corrosion was one of the factors that allowed the vehicle to build up a reputation for longevity in the toughest conditions. The early choice of colour was dictated by military surplus supplies of aircraft cockpit paint, so early vehicles only came in a shade of light green; all models until recently feature sturdy box section ladder-frame chassis.
The early vehicles, such as the Series 1, were designed to be field-serviced; advertisements for Rovers have bragged about vehicles driven thousands of miles on banana oil. Now with more complex service requirements this is less of an option. The British Army maintains the use of the mechanically simple 2.5 litre 4 cylinder 300TDi engined versions rather than the electronically controlled 2.5 litre 5 cylinder TD5 to retain some servicing simplicity. This engine also continued in use in some export markets.
Land Rovers, particularly the commercial and military models, became ubiquitous throughout rural areas and in the developing World. The Land Rover featured in the South African movie The Gods Must Be Crazy illustrates the love-hate relationship many owners feel with the earlier Series 1, 2 and 3 vehicles.
Land Rovers have competed in the Paris Dakar Rally as well as being the vehicle used for the Camel Trophy as part of a sponsorship deal. The Land Rover Defender is also used by military forces throughout the world. In the UK armed forces, the very expensive Pinzgauer, now built in the UK, is increasingly common in roles previously the preserve of the Land Rover Defender such as ambulances, artillery tractor and weapons platform with 188 Pinzgauers in service and 15,000 Land Rovers.
Since the 1970s, in most remote areas of Africa, South America, Asia and in the Australian Outback the Toyota Land Cruiser has overtaken the Land Rover as the utility 4x4 of choice, probably because of the better parts network offered by Japanese competitors. In Australia at least, pricing is actually comparable or in favour of the Land Rover. Another reason seems to be the 'leadfoot' factor - the workhorse Toyota models tend to have larger engines than the comparable Land Rover models.
In Britain, the Land Rover fell from favour with the farming community with the arrival of less expensive Japanese alternatives, with Daihatsu Fourtracks and Isuzu Troopers becoming a common sight on farms around the country, until rust eventually ended their working lives. However, with subtle improvements to the Defender in the early 1990s, and with the introduction of better, more reliable engines in the form of the TDi (especially the 300TDi) and the new five-cylinder TD5, most farms once again have a Land Rover Defender in their yard.
The Range Rover has helped to define the Land Rover brand as much as the traditional Series and later Defender vehicles. Its upmarket image is peerless in the SUV market and led to a proliferation of products with the introduction of the Discovery/LR3, Freelander and Range Rover Sport.
By the late 1990's Land Rover were concerned that the brand was fragmented in the eyes of customers who saw a collection of products, which had little relation to each other. In order to exert more leverage from marketing-spend, a re-think led to a departure from the traditional 'mud and guts' advertising to more aspirational and luxury orientated marketing to better reflect the true customer-base.
This product strategy has kept Land Rover in business. In 2005 it was the most profitable part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group (PAG) brand portfolio. This is in sharp contrast with Jaguar, another PAG brand, which has failed to innovate and appeal to new customers. Land Rovers profits should contiue to rise with the indroducton of the new Freelander at the end of 2006 and the new Defender in the summer of 2007.
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