Land Rover North America is celebrating 30 years of posh off-roading in the U.S.A.—even though, officially, the story began several years earlier.
It was 1985 when the bosses at Land Rover-Leyland Limited realized that Americans rather liked the Range Rover that they’d been importing via the grey market since the car was launched in 1970. Management at the nationalized car maker wasn’t exactly well known for its rapid decision-making, but once the potential size of the U.S. market finally dawned on them—and with a new four-door version of the Range Rover arriving—they hired former VW executive Charlie Hughes to set up shop stateside.
Hughes began building a dealer network, advertising for franchisees in Automotive News, and the response was astonishing. More than 1000 applications came in for the 36 proposed dealerships. By early 1987, 11 dealers were up and running. On March 16 of that year, the very first officially imported Range Rover was delivered, and as 1987 drew to a close, 2585 more Rangies rolled along the roads of America.
Five years later—that’s 30 years ago—the now-privatized Rover Group had been bought by British Aerospace and the U.S. arm was renamed Land Rover North America, soon adding the Land Rover Defender 110 to its lineup. Today, with 170-odd retailers across the U.S.A. and annual sales of more 73,000, it’s fair to say that belated decision by the Brits to begin their adventures in America has paid off.
Let’s take a look at some highlights.