Land Rover is adopting a parallel pricing policy in New Zealand, offering diesel and petrol variants of particular models at an identical price.
The move follows the distribution on Land Rover being taken over by Motorcorp Distributors Ltd.
"We've made it a simple choice between the two fuels," says Motorcorp managing director Wallis Dumper.
Till now the price of a petrol engined Discovery, Range Rover or Range Rover Sport was more expensive than its diesel equivalent.
Dumper says the prices of the petrol models have been reduced while diesel models have increased slightly.
"The specification levels in both vehicles are the same," he says. "It's simply a matter of buyers choosing whether they want to put petrol or diesel in the fuel tank."
Dumper says the Discovery 3 Turbo diesel V6 SE and the petrol V8 SE are both priced at $94,990. A Range Rover Sport TD V6 and its petrol V8 equivalent have a $129,990 pricetag, and the flagship Range Rover Vogue with either a Td V6 or the V8 will cost $179,990.
Since its launch, the Range Rover Sport has taken over the mantle of the biggest selling luxury SUV in New Zealand.
"It has brought a number of new luxury SUV buyers to Land Rover," says Dumper. "Rather than coming to the brand via our price leading models, they're buying their first Land Rover product nearer the top of our price ladder."
There has also been an upsurge in interest in the Defender range in which Motorcorp stocks the 90 and 110 station wagon models.
"Its minimalist design has become trendy for city users. The Defender traces its origins directly back to the original 1948 Land Rover and obviously that has some appeal like the new Mini and new Golf with their retro styling. Of course there is a certain ambience one invokes in a Defender, you don’t just drive a Defender, you arrive."
The Defender cab/chassis is available only to special order, and it mostly bought by rural buyers.
Dumper is pushing the Land Rover's heritage in the NZ marketing campaign.
He's using the slogan "SUV of the Year before SUVs were even invented."
"People have been driving Land Rovers in New Zealand since 1948, a time when there were no other SUVs," Dumper says.
He says Land Rover sales are buoyant in New Zealand, and registration of new cars are growing while those of used imports are declining.
We briefly sampled a Range Rover Sport at a Motorcorp press day where Dumper outlined plans for the British marque and two other Ford Premier Automotive Grouo brands he is marketing locally, Jaguar and Volvo.
The big SUV showed excellent agility on a range of tight and demanding roads.
G4 challenge is under way
Land Rover's 2006 G4 Challenge began in Bangkok, Thailand, last Sunday.
The event, contested by 18 competitors, lasts 28 days, will see the 16 men and two women climb, kayak, abseil, bike, drive off-road and navigate their way over 4000 kilometres of varied terrain in four countries and across two continents.
After the Bangkok start, the competition headed north into Laos for two weeks of remote activity within the steamy mountains and valleys around the Mekong River where the jungle, mud, water and river crossings will provide an exciting array of 4x4 driving and multi-sport challenges.
On May 5, the Challenge crosses the world to Brazil for the start of Stage 3 and a spectacular activity staged on the crowded beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Competittors then move on to Bolivia, where the going gets tougher. Climbing the Andes Mountain range to altitudes of over 4000 metres and taking in such natural wonders as the vast salt plains of Salar de Uyuni, the event reaches its climax with the Challenge Final in a stunning remote natural amphitheatre near the city of Tarija. It is in this setting that the 18 competitors will complete the adventure and the ultimate victor of the 2006 Land Rover G4 Challenge will claim a brand new Range Rover.
"The terrain of Laos and Bolivia will ensure some really challenging driving," says event director Niki Davies. "With very few tarmac roads, competitors will encounter deeply rutted tracks, slippery mud crawls, slow winch sections and deep river crossings."
In total there will be 134 Land Rovers working in a variety of roles to support the 2006 Challenge. The competitors will use the all-new Range Rover Sport 4.4-litre V8 HSE in Southeast Asia, the three-door 2.5-litre V6 SE Freelander during the Urban Challenge in Rio de Janeiro and then the wilds of Bolivia will be tackled in the 4.4-litre V8 Discovery 3 HSE.
Training has been intense for the 18 competitors, as they prepare to push themselves to the limit in temperatures ranging from 40-plus to minus20 degrees Celsius and extreme altitude. Their physical fitness, sporting and driving skills will need to be complemented with an ability to apply initiative and strategy to every situation.
The field of 18 competitors includes a fire-fighter, paramedic, lifeguard, army instructor, and graphic designer.
Record Land Rover sales
Land Rover achieved its best-ever worldwide sales performance in 2005.
In a record sales year, the 4x4 manufacturer sold 185,120 vehicles around the world, an increase of 14 over 2004.
In the USA, sales surged 30 percent, and in emerging markets like China and Russia, the increases were 105 percent and 67 percent.
In Britain, a December cold snap boosted 2005 sales to 48,777, a three percent rise. It was Land Rover's fifth record year in a row in Britain.
The Range Rover Sport made what Land Rover termed a "sensational debut with 30,356 models sold worldwide in six months."
Discovery 3 sales climbed steadily throughout the year, to 53,558.