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Land Rover LRX Concept: Times are Definitely Changing

LRX Demonstrates Atomization of the SUV Market
Not all that long ago, we (and most other pundits) would have prescribed a pretty failsafe formula for how to create a successful SUV. Make it big, make it really upright, and give it plenty of power, OPEC be damned. Sure, everyone knows now that fuel prices are high, driving demand for more efficient means of transportation, but there are plenty of other factors driving the atomization of the once cookie-cutter SUV market.
Whatever you want to call them – body-on-frame utility vehicles, crossovers, car-based utilities, whatever – SUVs as a genre have matured to the point where there is plenty of space and demand for unique niches within the larger segment. In fact, consistent with the greater overall consumer demand we see nowadays for tailored, unique products that fit every taste (how many ways can you have your Starbucks?), the SUV segment is quickly becoming as diverse as the passenger car market. So is there a market for a sustainable, eco-friendly coupe-like Land Rover? Even five years ago, we probably would have given the notion a big thumbs down.

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Seeking New Blood and New Concept Space

Land Rover’s LRX concept previews a niche luxury entry SUV product that we’re expecting to see within the next few years. This product would come in below the car-based Freelander, theoretically casting a wider net and providing a larger gateway to the Land Rover brand. We can see their logic here. Today’s oldest Gen Y buyers are coming of age and are starting to earn real money, and a huge number of them have grown up valuing prestige and premium branding. As a struggling brand (especially in Europe, where the traditional truck-based SUVs that Land Rover specializes in have become more irrelevant than ever), Land Rover has got to find some new blood – and the key hopefully lies in these young and open-minded buyers.
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So what is the LRX concept? LRX aims to prove that Land Rover values can be consistent with the notions of sustainability and social responsibility. It’s smaller, lighter, and greener than any Land Rover before it, and it wraps those attributes in a coupe-like yet recognizably SUV bodystyle. It features polycarbonate windows, vegetable-tanned leather (hey, at least the tanners didn’t have to die), and many parts made from recycled soda bottles. The overall look is more Soho than safari, which makes perfect sense as most Land Rovers these days are shod with giant “dubs” that would fold in half when faced with your average curb.

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As mentioned elsewhere, many affluent consumers today equate green thinking with being chic, stylish, and in-the-know. This is particularly true of the many young consumers who will undoubtedly be ready for their first luxury purchase in the next few years (consumers who are squarely in LRX’s crosshairs). So, maybe Land Rover’s onto something here, as contradictory as the notion of an eco-friendly Land Rover sounds. Given its markets’ changing priorities, it seems like the right thing to do.
Of course, a wild card here is Ford’s pending sale of Land Rover to Tata. The LRX concept is a future vision for Land Rover under Ford. If or when Tata takes over, will they agree with this vision for a green gateway SUV? Or will they have other ideas? We’ll find out soon enough.

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