The Freelander, Land Rover's smallest sport-utility, will reach U.S. showrooms this fall with a sticker price below $30,000, the company's senior executive says.
'Freelander will define the luxury end of the small-SUV segment, the same way Range Rover defined luxury for the SUV segment when it was introduced (in the United States) in 1987,' Bob Dover, Land Rover CEO, said at the Detroit auto show.
Dover said Freelander's U.S. sales should be about 20,000 units in the first 12 months. That would nearly double last year's total sales of 27,148 and make the United States Land Rover's biggest single market, passing the United Kingdom.
'The only reason that (volume target) is not guaranteed is because the U.S. is such a competitive market,' he said. 'There are so many entries. No doubt, the U.S. is the toughest market, the most unforgiving market in the world.'
The Freelander debuted in Europe in 1997 with a choice of either a gasoline or diesel four-cylinder engine. Land Rover never built the original Freelander to pass U.S. safety and emissions requirements.
But in Europe, it immediately became the best-selling model in the tiny but growing sport-utility segment. Volume in 2000 was about 75,000 units worldwide.
Last September Land Rover started selling an updated Freelander in Europe equipped with a V-6 gasoline engine. That top-of-the-line model is the basis for the U.S. model.
Land Rover North America will offer two trim and equipment packages, with either cloth or leather upholstery. Both will have a sticker price below $30,000, Dover said. All U.S. models will have the 2.5-liter V-6 teamed with a five-speed automatic transmission.
Other features include a hill-descent monitor that keeps the Freelander from skidding on steep hills; four-wheel traction control; and antilock brakes adapted for off-road use.