Range Rover at 50: The birth of luxury SUVs

admin 2020-06-13 阅读:104

Stuffed to its roof racks with baggage, the Range Rover should have been an instant failure when its fat Michelin tires finally rolled onto U.S. soil in March 1987.

Instead, a brilliant launch strategy crafted mostly by former Volkswagen, Fiat and Chrysler executives that focused on image, capability and customer service got the Range Rover off to a strong start and made it into one of the industry's most improbable success stories.

The Range Rover, celebrating its 50th anniversary this month, has inspired a bumper crop of imitators as well as a growing number of legitimate competitors. In doing so, the Range Rover nearly singlehandedly created a segment — the luxury SUV — that has all but replaced the sedan as the preferred mode of transport for athletes, movie stars, government officials and executives.

But back in summer 1986, Charlie Hughes, the ex-Volkswagen marketing executive running Range Rover North America in Lanham, Md., was not thinking much about changing the nation's automotive landscape. He had more immediate and worrisome concerns.

In a matter of months, he would be selling a 17-year-old vehicle that had undergone few upgrades since its European launch in March 1970. For example, the 1987 Range Rover was still powered by a hand-me-down General Motors engine that first saw duty in 1961, in a compact Buick sedan.

On top of that, the British-built Range Rovers came from a country with a reputation for producing poor-quality automobiles. And it was manufactured by a company that would have been roadkill if not for several oversized tranches of aid from the British government.