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Can the more expensive All-New Discovery attract more Chinese consumers with its emotion?

Land Rover launched its All-New Discovery in China on March 2. The 5th generation of the model is given high expectations. At a starting price of ¥798,000 ($116,000) for the 3.0L S version all the way up to ¥1,108,000 for the Limited Launch Edition, the All-New Discovery is more expensive than its predecessor.

There is no doubt that Land Rover is good at emotional marketing. The launch was arranged at the Han Show Theater in Wuhan with acrobatics performed on and over a stage that also turned into a pool with elevating stadium seats. Land Rover also invited more than 100 car owners of the first four generations of the model to share their stories and journeys of discovery and adventure. Obviously, it was dominated by emotion.

From the introduction of its first generation in 1989, the Discovery has sold more than 1.2 million units all over the world as one of Land Rover’s bestselling models. The product history and brand appeal are obvious to all. As Frank Wittemann, president of Jaguar Land Rover China and Chery-JLR’s Integrated Marketing Sales and Service (IMSS), said at the beginning of the launch event, “Conquer everything, that’s Land Rover.”

This year, in order to cater to Chinese consumers’ tastes and meet Chinese family demand, the All-New Discovery changed greatly in terms of exterior design as one of the most anticipated new SUVs of 2017.

The All-New Discovery looks more sophisticated than its entire lineage, but it doesn’t step away from the unmistakable design of the Discovery family. Gerry McGovern’s design team at Land Rover has given the new edition of the 26-year-old model a more softer-edged look that moves it away from the blunt styling that’s gone before and brings it into line with the Discovery Sport. This risks alienating existing long-term Discovery fans, who may consider the new SUV too upmarket for daily abuse like towing horseboxes and caravans.

Many media on spot expressed that the All-New Discovery overturned their old perceptions of the model. The softer-edged look made it into a “sweet guy” instead of a “macho man.” For this, Gordon Snoddy, vice president of Brand and Product Public Relations of Jaguar Land Rover IMSS, does not agree. “Instead of soft, I prefer to use the word SLEEK to describe the design of the All-New Discovery. In a way, it’s the better take on the lesser Discovery Sport, especially those vertical air intakes and the headlight assemblies. Do not, however, think that the Discovery has grown soft.”

According to Snoddy, the change of exterior design of the All-New Discovery is due to the differentiation of its target market compared to the previous generation. For the All-New Discovery, Land Rover wishes to keep the existing customer groups while expanding the middle-class family market and those who are keen on outdoor activities in China. Therefore, the goal is much clearer and the objective of competing SUV market share with self-owned brand is more specific. “With more SUVs welcomed by Chinese customers and an increasing number of outdoor fans, this segment will be brighter in China in the near future,” said Snoddy.

However, the price of the All-New Discovery has exceeded that of the Audi Q7 and BMW X5. Now the MSRP of the Audi Q7 and X5 are ¥753,800 and ¥758,000 respectively. With dealer discounts, people can buy them for less than ¥600,000.

After the release of retail pricing, many media reporters felt surprised and concerned about customers’ feedback. “Such pricing will scare away a certain number of customers. A Grand Cherokee only costs approximately ¥500,000 and can completely satisfy general customers’ daily needs,” an auto expert said. Some media expressed different opinions as more reputable premium brands such as ABB (Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz) attract more customers with their Audi Q7/BMW X5/Mercedes-Benz GLE models.

On behalf of Discovery owners, Chinese actor Sun Honglei was invited to endorse the All-New Discovery and became the model’s first ever owner in China. It can be seen that Land Rover has invested highly and wishes to expand the SUV segment in China with the launch of the All-New Discovery. 

Last year, Jaguar Land Rover led the second-tier luxury brands in China with sales of 119,000 units. China became its largest single market and locally-produced models such as the Range Rover Evoque, Discovery Sport and Jaguar XFL accounted for more than half of sales. At a higher price, the All-New Discovery faces a tougher road ahead because of competition from both ABB and second-tier luxury brands such as Cadillac, Lexus and Volvo.

With a starting price of ¥800,000 and more than ¥1.1 million for the top of the line version, can the All-New Discovery still attract Land Rover fans yearning to discover the new emotions offered by the model?

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