Evoque Marks Move toward Greener SUVs for Land Rover

Tata Motors Limited CEO, Carl-Peter Forster, says its Land Rover division needs to develop more environmentally-friendly models to compete with other, greener models from other automakers. To that end, Land Rover launched its lightweight, two-door Range Rover Evoque last Thursday and plans a number of upgrades to lower the carbon emissions of its larger all-terrain vehicles.

Forster said, “I’m not a supporter of the theory that if we have a small car then we can afford to make a large car. It’s important that the bigger Range Rover is developed with more fuel-efficient engines. That’s the type of activity that will make sure it continues to be socially acceptable.”

As demand for premium autos continues to rebound, Tata’s Jaguar-Land Rover division anticipates annual fleet-wide sales to reach 300,000 units with the help of the new Evoque. The Evoque is priced from about $50,000 and is scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. in the fall of 2011.

As an example of Range Rover’s efforts to lower greenhouse emissions, Forster cites a new diesel engine which the automaker plans to launch in 2011. The new eight-cylinder diesel delivers 309 bhp and an estimated fuel efficiency rating of 30.1 mpg.

Land Rover’s UK managing director John Edwards said the automaker is improving the fuel efficiency of its vehicles “more than any other manufacturer”.  “We’ve made more progress on our current cars than we thought possible,” he said.

The new Evoque, which will be launched this September at the Paris Motor Show, is based on the Land Rover LRX concept vehicle which was shown during the 2008 Detroit Auto Show. Edwards did not provide sales estimates for the new Evoque but said about 80% of the vehicles will be exported.

The British government provided 27 million pounds of financial assistance to the automaker to help with development costs and to ensure that the new model will be built in Halewood, England. Production of the new model is expected to create 1,000 new jobs in Halewood and nearby Liverpool.

The Evoque will be available in two- and four-wheel drive versions and is intended to compete with the Audi TT and Mini in Western markets.

Automotive Industry Data managing director, Peter Schmidt questions the wisdom of launching a new premium model to compete in the North American and European markets. He says JLR would have been better served by focusing on developing models for the China market. Schmidt attributes higher fuel costs and higher road taxes on full-size SUVs for the increasing popularity of small SUVs like the Honda CR-V and warns, “The market for proper SUVs in the western world is dying. But the Chinese still love the real thing.”

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