Gerry McGovern discusses the three necessary factors for establishing consumers' emotional connectivity to a vehicle, key to the success in the luxury automotive space

Focusing attention on creating a smooth and positive purchasing experience for people is no doubt critical, especially for expensive items like cars. At PSFK’s 2019 Auto CX Briefing, much of the conversation between attendees was around finding some balance between the complexity the U.S. dealership business and customers' desire for a painless and efficient purchasing path. What's equally important to understand is, what’s motivating consumers to make the purchase in the first place? That’s especially true when it comes to luxury goods and services.

We spent some time with Gerry McGovern, chief design officer for Land Rover at the launch of the second generation Range Rover Evoque in Greece. Since the debut of the original Evoque in 2011, it has become Land Rover’s highest volume model sold in total units and a particularly important part of the brand’s portfolio. “Volume and business are important to us, “McGovern said,” but above that is that we create products that our customers love for life. Design leadership and engineering integrity are what we strive for in each of our vehicles That hasn’t always been the case at Land Rover. In the past they looked the way they did for more purely functional reasons. What we’ve tried to do over the last ten years is give them a good dose of design in order to make these vehicles more universally desirable without them becoming generic.”

A key part of this transition was to adopt a focused point of view that people could easily identify and relate to. For McGovern, elements of the Modernism movement became the foundation to inform the tone of the Land Rover brand. “America was the greatest exponents of modernity in the 1950s. For us, it’s about being reductive,”McGovern said. “It’s about less is more and the reduction of clutter. These are the principals of modernity we’re carrying forward. We believe that’s absolutely right for a Range Rover, which is a sophisticated vehicle. We also talk about relevance and sustainability which are clearly important. But last and not least is desirability and how do you make that emotional connection.”

“Let’s face it, people don’t actually need luxury Range Rovers, luxury watches, luxury homes and luxury holidays. They don’t need them,” McGovern said, “but they desire them and that’s the difference. If businesses can offer premium products and services that are morally responsible, sustainable and in the process keep a lot of people working, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

McGovern focused in on the criteria he thinks are responsible for driving the connection we form with products and services. “That emotional connection is something only the best in my view achieve, it might be a car or with anything really. What it takes to achieve that to me is down to three things. Visceral: When I look at it, do I desire it? Behavioral: When I’ve got it, does it work and do what it's supposed to? And finally, Reflective: Once I’ve used and experienced it over a period of time, do I still desire it and am I building a lasting relationship with it, which reinforces why I bought it in the first place? These aren’t necessarily all equal, sometimes a product can over index on the visceral and not on the behavioral, but overall it’s still very successful.”

That thinking influenced the original Evoque, which was the first Land Rover created by prioritizing design. Since then, the rest of the model line has been folded into this design approach. As the timeline for updates resets for other models, McGovern discussed the rules in place to introduce some continuity, with the goal of keeping customers happy. “There’s this preoccupation in the automotive industry that every time you do a new car, it has to be completely different. Why? If you’ve got something that’s established that people love, for me, you refine it. Look at the evolution of the Porsche 911 as a good example. We have a similar approach with Range Rover. When it comes to a totally new vehicle that we haven’t produced before, that’s our opportunity to be radical.”

new_range_rover_evoque_greece_3.jpg

Improving the Evoque, as with any winning product, was tricky, McGovern recounted. “When we discussed redesigning this vehicle, we decided, there is an incredibly successful vehicle [historically) selling over 800,000, and the first Land Rover ever sold predominately on its design. It had all the capability and engineering integrity to go with it. We talked to our customers and the usual view was, why change it? But things have got to move on.”

The balance came with understanding what customers wanted versus what could be improved. The small size and overall look of the Evoque were two elements people liked. So the second-generation model grew by in length by only 1 millimeter. The design employs reduction and simplification that retains the character of what an Evoque is but fine tunes the aesthetics and freshens the look. One special detail is the inclusion of door handles that automatically retract to smooth out the body and improve aerodynamics a bit. It’s an element of the new Evoque that McGovern is especially proud of since it took around four years to develop and perfect. It’s an improved part of the new Evoque every owner will use and it encapsulates Land Rover’s take on a clean and modern aesthetic.

Gerry McGovern.

Disclaimer: Land Rover paid for our flights and hotel to Greece to cover the global Evoque media drive.

Land Rover


Photos: Land Rover, Dave Pinter

Focusing attention on creating a smooth and positive purchasing experience for people is no doubt critical, especially for expensive items like cars. At PSFK’s 2019 Auto CX Briefing, much of the conversation between attendees was around finding some balance between the complexity the U.S. dealership business and customers' desire for a painless and efficient purchasing path. What's equally important to understand is, what’s motivating consumers to make the purchase in the first place? That’s especially true when it comes to luxury goods and services.