17 June 2010

Land Rover Freelander / LR2

The premium compact SUV market was something Land Rover wanted to enter in the late 1980s. The fact that the Freelander actually hit the market in 1997 was because of the lack of money to get it into production. It allowed competition brands to establish themselves in that segment when LR could have been there. Honda had a 20% stake in Land Rover at that time and saw the design and technical specifications of the Freelander. It used that as a basis for its CRV model that even reached the market ahead of the Freelander. You can see the influence in the CRVs shape. Anyway, BMW came on board in 1994 and provided to funds to do it.

Despite reliability issues, the Freelander sold like hot cakes in the UK and Europe from the outset. It sold at a rate of 70,000 pa for many years and became the fastest selling LR ever. However, increased competition and the world economic downturn meant only about 35,000 were made in 2009. The Range Rover Sport now rivals the Freelander for top sales spot within the marque. While I personally really like the 'safe' design shape, it now needs to lift. The new LRX may offer a style direction for the next Freelander.

The bottom line: The Freelander has been a winner for Land Rover.

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