Auto exec: ‘The industry is going electric, whether we like it or not’

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Electrified all-new Land Rover Defender set for Aug. 1 launch

WITH the scheduled local launch on Aug. 1 of the new Land Rover Defender — 37 years after the last all-new iteration — the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) brand continues to send a clear message about the commitment to its so-called “Destination Zero” mission. Through “autonomous, connected, electrified and shared future mobility, we are committed to a strategy of electrification across our model ranges,” stated the firm on its corporate website.

The portfolios of the storied UK auto marques now already boast “degrees of electrification,” from mild electric vehicles (MHEVs) to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

“The global industry is going that way — frankly, whether we like it or not,” averred Coventry Motors Corp. President and All British Cars (ABC) GM Chris Ward in an exclusive interview. Catching up with Mr. Ward at a sneak peek of the Defender (capped by a short albeit delightful stint behind the wheel) proved enlightening on how electrified vehicles can and are steadily taking a foothold in the psyche of the Filipino car buyer.

THE RETURN OF THE DEFENDER
What proved to be my last pre-COVID-19 visit to the ABC showroom on EDSA in Greenhills was back in December 2019 for the reveal of the Land Rover Discovery Sport. Aside from presenting that model, Mr. Ward had discussed the then just-launched Defender (which was unveiled globally at the Frankfurt Motor Show). To be sure, the protracted absence of the iconic nameplate has served to generate excitement and enthusiasm for the vehicle.

But that surely shouldn’t take away anything from the vehicle’s eye-catching, soul-stirring reimagination. While cutting a familiar boxy shape, the Defender reinterprets lines and execution, and enlists the use of high technology to serve up an entirely drivable and foolproof tool for every day roads and more difficult terrain alike.

The Defender comes in five-door (the 110) and three-door (the 90) configurations, and it’s the 110 that will first be available here this week (the 90 is expected to arrive in the Q1 2021). While four engine options are available (two diesel- and two gas-sipping), for now, Land Rover Philippines is bringing in the top-shelf in-line 3.0-liter, six-cylinder power plant with mild hybrid technology. The all-new Ingenium six-banger engine, which debuts in the Defender, serves up 400ps and 550Nm of torque — the latter available from 2,000rpm.

As mentioned, the Defender employs a “small integrated electric motor which gathers energy from regenerative braking, which then is used for instant power from takeoff.” Indeed, despite tipping the scales at almost 5,000 pounds, the vehicle feels nimble and spirited. Land Rover says the Defender can reach 100kph from standstill in 6.1 seconds, up to a top rate of 208kph, with the performance accessed via an eight-speed automatic transmission. A twin-scroll turbocharger and continuous variable valve lift help to boost power.

The vehicle is priced as follows with the various “accessory packs” (each one, maintained Land Rover, “designed to help you make more of your world”) Defender 110 Urban (P6.31 million), Defender 110 Country (P6.36 million), Defender 110 Adventure (P6.44 million), and Defender 110 Explorer (P6.61 million). The even more premium Defender 110 First Edition is priced at P9.39 million.

ELECTRIFYING FUTURE
“You have to take that brave step and just say, ‘Here it is. I’ve trained my people. My people know how to look after it. We’ve got the right product for the market,’” commented Mr. Ward, who at the start of his posting in Manila already shared that electrified vehicles were forthcoming for JLR.

The executive intimated, “There are more PHEVs coming… options for the Evoque, Discovery Sport in next 12 months. We’re just sorting out if it’s right, the pricing. This technology is a little more expensive to manufacture, but there are tech savings.”

It certainly helps that there’s heightened awareness and openness to the more environmentally friendly powertrain. In fact, the arrival of Jaguar’s first all-electric vehicle I-Pace was surely helped along by Filipino customers who Mr. Ward said had been asking about it. “We’ve been getting great press for a car that’s been around for three years. It’s proven; it’s got legs already,” he insisted. “That’s the pull of both the brand and electric vehicles.”

The key to greater acceptance of electrified vehicles of any kind is the adequate addressing of pain points. Reassurance and the lessening of uncertainty are important. Mr. Ward said that when talking to potential buyers of these vehicles, confidence must be inspired in them. In the case of the I-Pace, Jaguar Philippines made it a point to quell concerns about charging — explaining to clients and even helping them get their home charger installed. “These were things that were initially holding them back… It’s about understanding the technology, protocols for charging, etc.”

While JLR has stated its intentions on progressively electrifying its portfolio — a process that is becoming more evident with each new release, Chris Ward clarified that it doesn’t necessarily mean that petrol and diesel options will be removed right away.

Still, the writing on the wall is clear: “Over the next five years or so, not just us, but all the other premium manufacturers as well. You’ll see their lineup moving away from pure internal combustion to a combination or pure EV.”





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