Land Rover marketing is going upscale. For now, at least, so are its sales.
Forget dirt and mud. The luxury brand's current advertising campaign emphasizes vehicle technology and glamour. A new phase of the campaign, called "Translations," is scheduled to launch next month.
In the first 11 months of 2005, Land Rover's U.S. sales rose by 30.8 percent over the year-ago period, to 39,262 vehicles. The LR3 large SUV accounted for 42.9 percent of those sales.
Scott McKee, Land Rover's general manager of retail programs and communications, says the new campaign aims to grab the attention of U.S. consumers who are looking for luxury light trucks.
"Land Rover did not appeal to a large portion of the (U.S.) market," McKee told Automotive News. "We are now getting people to consider the LR3."
The U.S. luxury-truck segment is dominated by Lexus, Cadillac and BMW, which control half the market.
This year, Land Rover has moved from eighth to sixth place in the segment, with a 7.6 percent market share through November 2005, up from 5.7 percent in the year-ago period.
TV commercials for the "Translations" campaign show people from various countries praising Land Rover vehicles in their native tongues. A new TV spot will debut in cold-weather markets in January.
The commercial features an Inuit Eskimo driving a dog sled across the tundra.
After he admires a passing LR3, the Eskimo and his team are treated to a ride.
"Land Rover has a long history of off-roading, and has set the standard for it," McKee says. "The idea is that people the world over are having the same reaction."
McKee would not disclose the ad campaign's budget. In the first half of 2005, Land Rover spent $41.7 million to advertise in U.S. media, according to TNS Media Intelligence. That was a 60.9 percent increase over the year-ago period.
McKee says the commercials are aimed at affluent, college-educated consumers. The base price of the LR3 is $38,950, including shipping.
Land Rover dealers say they like the new marketing direction.
"I am pretty wowed with it," says Gary Redmond, who owns a Land Rover dealership in Rockville, Md. "I remember the years - and maybe justly so - that Land Rover took some hits in a couple of areas. They've had some reliability issues."
Redmond says his sales rose 61 percent last month over November 2004. They are are up 40 percent for the year, he adds.
Mike Avery, general manager of a Land Rover dealership in Scarborough, Maine, says consumers are increasingly interested in the brand.
"I spent 23 years with a Toyota dealership and I had one Land Rover trade-in - one," Avery says. "That's not the case anymore."