There’s been a lot of stuff that has come across my screen. I needed some time to suss it all out that does not require its own bandwidth.
No one really has time on their side. Or, plenty of time to absorb all of the “news” in the world.
Then again, we’re scrolling and swiping on our smartphones to find something we need to react to.
There’s been a lot of stuff that has come across my screen. I needed some time to suss it all out that does not require its own bandwidth. Here’s what’s been out there in the ether. Who knows what will come from this…
First off, the SUV market has always an image issue. Before the softroaders took over, the idea of an SUV fell along the lines of the Land Rover, Toyota Land Cruiser, Nissan Patrol, Jeep CJ-5, Chevrolet K-5 Blazer, Ford Bronco, and International Scout. They were trailmasters made of stout construction that can go anywhere.
Then came the 1990s. Minivans were starting to fall from favor. Instead, SUVs took over as family haulers, Thusly, SUVs became soft and visually accessible.
The rebirth of the Defender lineup and the Ford Bronco spurred on a return to “butch” design languages on the latest softroaders. No, they will never follow a Wrangler on an off-highway vehicle trail. They will attract consumers looking for a vehicle that has an air of toughness with accessible specification.
That is why the internet went absolutely bonkers over the look of the next Hyundai Santa Fe. To say that it is a radical departure from even the latest design language is an understatement. The designers at Hyundai created a boxy shape that looks more Defender than Santa Fe. Some even compare elements of the upcoming Santa Fe to the Ford Flex – a vehicle that has been removed from sales years ago.
As I mentioned before, the next Toyota Land Cruiser for North America was revealed. It would be more off-road orientated, but it will be priced below what it once sold for. That, along with the 2024 Lexus GX will tell you that the butching up of SUV design is a real thing. The only difference is that the GX and the North American Land Cruiser actually have serious capability to go off road. And, the Toyota gets a hybrid four-cylinder to power it.
Will this a trend or a passing fad? The Volkswagen Group is yet to reveal what their Scout will look like in the flesh. Let’s bet on the internet and social media to go absolutely insane when that happens.
Speaking of Defender, Jaguar Land Rover is going through a branding evolution. First off, the Tata-controlled luxury British automaker changed its corporate mark as JLR. Then, they divvied up the Land Rover side of the house through three brands: Range Rover, Discovery, and Defender.
This has been attempted before. Land Rover decided to split Range Rover some years ago for a minute to distinguish the two sub brands. That almost went to plan, even if it cost dealers to add the signage to do so.
Now, you should expect JLR’s global dealer network to shell out more money for this round of new signage with four “brands” to sell.
This is not about signage. JLR’s new branding strategy is a dumb idea overall. Calling themselves JLR should just be enough. If you leave the Land Rover business alone, then you should be successful in ensuring that the model line has a solid standing within the company.
These two examples point to how much the SUV has become a pawn in the industry's game. From thinking you're going to build a better off-road ready vehicle to marketing them, I often why everyone thinks the stakes are too high to not do anything to attract new customers. The SUV is a precious commodity that a cash register ready for a larger till.
Here's what 2024 is looking like. Here's how trends are being matched. Here's how branding may help or hurt a company. Fasten your seatbelts, folks, for these moves…
Cover photo by Randy Stern