ACINAR Issue 303, 26 July 2010
There were collective gasps when Consumer Reports publicly chastised Apple for the antenna defect in the hot-selling iPhone 4. The watchdog’s fix? Put some duct tape around the beautiful, industrial-chic stainless steel band that fuses the front and back of the device. No Apple devotee is going to do that. They’d rather never use it to make a phone call than destroy the aesthetics. For this flaw, CR couldn’t give the new iPhone 4 a recommended rating.
What may be more instructive is that if you checked Consumer Reports’ website, you’d also notice that the iPhone 4 is still its top-rated smart phone. Despite the legendary failures of AT&T’s 3G network, the iPhone 4 out-scored all other smart phones for all other carriers. So the top rated smart phone can’t be recommended because of its propensity to drop voice calls more frequently than its predecessors. That’s astonishing.
Even with all the blogs, YouTube videos and news reports about the defect, Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO deflected and downplayed the criticism and offered free plastic cases or bumpers to anyone who wanted one. The iPhone 4 is so popular that it’s sold out in all worldwide markets. Neither Apple nor AT&T can’t keep them in stock.
The obvious lesson is that if people love and lust after something, almost no empirical evidence of defect will kill its popularity.
That brings me to Land Rover’s Range Rover. The Range Rover (HSE and Supercharged) and its lesser, but dashing cousin, the Range Rover Sport (a dressed-up LR4-Discovery) have become standard issue to Hollywood Hills real estate agents, Beverly Hills lawyers and The Housewives of Orange County.
The Range Rover is no ordinary luxury SUV. It has such off-road capabilities that it could easily cross the wrecked roads of Los Angeles after the big one. The floods of water resulting from either broken water mains or the tsunami after the earthquake would barely ruffle its massive, 5,697 pound body perched on 22 inch wheels. The great urban jungle called Los Angeles has been tamed.
People love their Range Rovers. In January, the 2009 Range Rover was awarded the Polk Automotive Loyalty Award by R. L. Polk & Co. in the Luxury Sport Utility Category for the second year in a row. The Polk Loyalty Award is based on actual customer surveys and records.
In July, the Range Rover was the overall top-rated vehicle in AutoPacific’s 2010 Survey of the Most Ideal Vehicles, as surveyed by new owners. AutoPacific surveys owners in the United States to rate new vehicles by how close they come to their ideal,using 15 categories, such as power and acceleration, interior lighting and storage, and seating visibility and comfort.
The Range Rove won both its category – Luxury SUV, and the overall crown. Pretty impressive, considering its such a small niche player and the auto industry is barely staggering back to life after the worst global recession since the Great Depression.
In fact, in June, Land Rover’s sales were up 41%. Since April 1, Land Rover’s sales are up 71% while sister brand Jaguar increased only33%.
Last December, the 2010 Range Rover Sport won Automotive Lease Guide’s (ALG) Residual Value Award in the Best Luxury Utility Vehicle category for the fifth consecutive year.
ALG’s annual Residual Value Awards, for the 2010 model year, honored the vehicles in each industry segment that the guide predicts will retain the highest percentage of their original price after a conventional three-year lease term.
ALG studies the competition in each segment, historical vehicle performance and industry trends. Vehicle quality, production levels relative to demand, and pricing strategies are among the key factors that affect ALG’s residual value forecasts.
Say what? Vehicle quality is a major factor in ALG’s award? Here’s the disconnect:
It’s no secret that Land Rover vehicles have horrible initial quality ratings. In JD Power & Associates 2010 Initial Quality Study (IQS), Land Rover (including Range Rover) is dead last in the rankings. And it has been last or almost last for years.
JD Power’s study looks at the number of problems reported by owners per 100 vehicles. The industry average is 109 problems for every 100 vehicles or 1.09 problems per vehicle. Top-rated Porsche has reported problems of only 0.83 per vehicle. Acura, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Ford and Honda all score less than one problem per vehicle.
Land Rover scored a whopping 170 or 1.7 problems per vehicle. That’s more than double the top 4 brands. Runner up Mitsubishi scored a146, so it’s not like Land Rover just barely slid into last place. Sister brand Jaguar tied with MINI at a dismal 1.3 problems per car.
The Jaguar Land Rover Group (JLR) is owned by Tata Motors of India. Many of the quality problems were inherited when Tata bought JLR from Ford in 2008; but the look, feel and performance of these large luxury SUVs continue to draw plenty of admirers and loyal customers.
I’ve driven the Range Rover HSE (the base $80,000 version) and I have to say I liked it very much. The high-perched front captain seats are fantastic. The combination of the aroma of premium English leather and the powerful 5.0 liter 375 hp V8 that packs 375 lb-ft of torque, is intoxicating. Every luxury electronic trick is either standard or optional. You are transformed into English royalty; well armed for urban battle.
Royal money is needed to buy or lease on one of these monsters ($80,000 – $110,000 for the Range Rovers; $20,000 less for the Sport models). Then again, most of the people driving a Range Rover are charging it to their production company or a sugar daddy. It also helps to have a personal assistant to deal with those pesky service visits.
You will be lucky to get 300 miles from the 27.6 gallon tank. The EPA rating for the Range Rover is 12/14/18 (HSE or Supercharged). Expect real-world economy closer to 10-11 mpg range, so always carry your Black American Express card.
I like the Range Rover Autograph Edition ($109,625) in Vallorie White Pearl (only $9,500 extra). I’ve measured; it will fit in my garage. I’m also looking for a sugar daddy. Any offers?