By JENSEN LA VENDE
Despite the local luxury car market contracting by 45 per cent, Land Rover has struck a special deal with Trafalgar Motors to ensure that those wanting to drive high-end vehicles can still do so, reasonably priced, of course.
Speaking with Business Day on Tuesday, Jerome Borde, Automotive Sector Head at ANSA McAL Group and president of the Automotive Dealers' Association, said Land Rover's understanding of the country's dire need for foreign exchange and the increased taxes on luxury vehicles, gave way to a reduction in the prices for their new Range Rover model, the Velar.
"Our price has come down because Land Rover has decided for 2018, they will give us a special price (because of) forex constraints and tax restraints; whether that is sustainable, I am not sure. The price is extremely good and it is specific to TT to address the particular circumstance we are in," Borde said.
While there may be an economic downturn in TT, this has not quenched the thirst for luxury vehicles and Trafalgar Motors hopes to satisfy the craving, while remaining financially responsible. At the Velar's launch on March 24, just around 8.30 pm, the country was allowed to see, first-hand, Range Rover's latest addition to their sport utility vehicle (SUV) family. The vehicle was unveiled at Trafalgar's Charles Street office in Port of Spain, with smoke and pyrotechnics. Prospective buyers will have to shell out $885,000 for the bragging rights to be among the first in the country to own the Velar. So far, only 16 people have earned that honour, and all of them through advanced purchase.
Borde, when asked how many more will be imported, said he did not want to divulge that information, so as to tip off competitors. He added that the UK-based Land Rover sees TT as the strongest market in the Caribbean. He added that currently there is a need to carry a minimum number of vehicles as the market can tolerate. Borde said the luxury vehicle segment is mostly affected by the forex shortfall and, as such, sellers must remain cautious and timely when spending money. Land Rover, he said, is aware that they need external markets to survive and the Caribbean is one of them.
"Land Rover recognised the need to remain and grow the brand and they have lots of products coming out over the next one to three years and they will be aggressive in their models and their prices. We have an exciting time ahead with Land Rover despite our economic situation," Borde said, adding that the contraction is the lowest he has seen in the past ten years.
Those aggressive ideas include the Range Rover PHEV, an electric ride set to be released in 2019.
Borde said: "There will be ups and downs throughout all economic cycles. That is what businesses do. We don't plan to go out of business but the market has contracted."
Those gathered for the unveiling, cellphones in one hand and a drink in the other, were told of some of the Velar's many features, including retractable door handles that, in the unlikely case of a snowstorm in the Caribbean, can project up to one-inch through an ice sheath. As an alternative to having to lug keys on errands, Land Rover also offers drivers a stylish and waterproof wristband that can remotely lock and unlock the vehicle, so they can leave their keys in the vehicle.
The interior of the Velar features the touch pro duo, a spilt-screen touch-screen, making it possible to control the navigation system in the upper screen while playing media on the lower. Despite the reduced price, the Velar does not stray from the details one expects from Range Rover models and has maintained its characteristic style, complete with a floating roof.
The Range Rover Velar was first unveiled last March at the London Design Museum, and has been described by critics as "by far" the best 4x4 on the market.