Land Rover is to build a baby-sized four-wheel-drive vehicle and plans to expand production dramatically, the company announced yesterday. The compact Land Rover, one of the first fruits of BMW’s take-over of Rover three years ago, is designed to head off competition from the Japanese in a fast-growing segment of the off-road market. It will share many of the famed abilities of its illustrious predecessors though few of the compacts are likely to do anything more taxing than pottering around town or a little leisurely motorway cruising.
Land Rover refused to reveal what the compact would look like or how much it will cost but the aim is to attract new buyers to the brand when it goes on sale early in 1998. It is intended that production at the Solihull manufacturing complex should rise from an anticipated 130,000 vehicles this year to 200,000 by the end of the decade. The investment, which will mean security for the 12,000-strong workforce, will come from the pounds 500m a year that BMW is committed to pumping into its British subsidiary. “It’s definitely a smaller product than the Discovery and we believe there’s plenty of scope to get new buyers,” Richard Elsy, the project director, said.
Land Rover is thought to have used Toyota’s new RAV4 – a chic-looking two-door four-wheel-drive – as its benchmark for the compact. According to Toyota insiders, British engineers bought four of the RAV4s from dealers for development work.