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Q&A: Land Rover’s design chief explains the Evoque Convertible

Flummoxed by the drop-top baby Rangie? Gerry McGovern explains

Gerry McGovern is Land Rover’s Design Director and Chief Creative Officer. Big job title, big job, really. McGovern is the man behind the LRX concept car that’s become the design template for his modern-day fleet of Land Rovers and Rangies.

TG caught up with Gerry as the covers were pulled off the love-it-hate-it Evoque Convertible

TG: The obvious question is, well, why?

GM: By 2020 there’ll be 20 million SUVs sold globally, but that market is fragmenting, so there’ll different niches within that. As a business, we have to get to a critical mass of volume to sustain ourselves and reinvest in our products.

While we’re obviously continuing to update our existing models, we’re always looking for opportunities to stretch the brand. We have a term for that: ‘white space’, and we’ll have a look at what sort of white spaces there are in the rest of the range.

[Adding a cabrio] has a halo effect on the Evoque, which brings more customers to all Evoques. Already, 80 per cent of Evoque buyers have never owned a Land Rover before.

TG: And how do you pigeonhole the car?

GM: It’s the first luxury SUV convertible. There have been other convertible SUVs, but not a luxury execution. We’ll take buyers from other luxury cars. Most Evoque customers came from premium brands, but had never owned an SUV before.

TG: Why is the Evoque the right car to experiment with?

GM: Design leadership and engineering integrity underpin all new Land Rovers. That’s a bit of a change, because design hasn’t always been a prerequisite for Land Rovers. Land Rovers of old looked the way they did because of what they did.

The Evoque changed that. It brought design to the forefront. Its design plays a fundamental role in starting a massive culture change in our business, making our engineers realise you can have great design and engineering integrity. You do that, and you’re going to clean up.

When we did the original [LRX] concept, a marketing man came up to me and said “Yeah, we’ll sell 30,000 of those”. We sell 130k [Evoques] a year, he’s gone, and we continue to sell it without really advertising it. And we’re now in the process of creating the next-gen Evoque.

TG: Even when you did the LRX concept, the cabrio must have always been in the sketchbook, at the back of your mind, right?

GM: No, no. We showed the cabrio three years ago as a concept in Geneva. Globally there’s a massive appetite for cabrios, and we got a very positive reaction. Consumers have been asking for three years: “When are you going to do it? We want one…”

But we’ve also had to make sure there’s a business case, and once you take the roof off a car, you have to re-engineer the body, so a lot of the engineering has been quite intense, so it performs to the same standards as the base car does, in twisting, noise, etc.

For example, on the Convertible, we have an all-new door. It’s a frameless door. I got my frameless doors, which I wanted in the original, and didn’t get…

Plus, back then the business was a completely different place. Now we’re owned and supported by Tata, we can take that long-view strategy, planning ahead. We know, and I know, what the next generation of Land Rovers is going to look like now.

Back then, we just weren’t afforded that luxury. Just getting the LRX into production looking like the concept was a real battle.

TG: ‘Evoque Convertible’ is quite a simple name. Weren’t you tempted to create your own word, like Jaguar christening its XF estate ‘Sportbrake’?

GM: Create a word? No. There’s always a debate about whether you should give a car a name or a number. For me, people have names, not numbers, and so should cars…

Having said that, you have to do a lot of research to prove the new word you’ve created doesn’t mean something nasty in a foreign language. I always believe that once it’s out there, a car’s name will fit to its character.

So no, we didn’t try to create a name, because Evoque is already distinctive on its own.

Click here for more info on the new Range Rover Evoque Convertible

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