Interview with Gerry McGovern

Paris Motor Show 2010 has closed its doors.  The much-anticipated show had many expectations to fulfill and one of them was the ‘debut’ of the Range Rover Evoque.  The smart little package was one of the first ladies to take the stage on the first press day and made not one but all swoon back to her call…”Bonjour Paris!”…”Bonjour Evoque ma cherie!”.  It was love at first sight for eco conscious city dwellers who live large but want a small carbon footprint without sacrificing luxury.  And this is precisely Gerry McGovern’s mission, attract those customers that are put-off by Land Rover’s emission snubbing fleet and show them that this is a modern and contemporary car brand you can drive with attitude.

McGovern should know, he lives the life that he preaches; his life is designed from top to bottom and back up agaim.  His house in Warwickshire, UK, pays homage to modernist design, while his suits and shoes are Italian...his cars? English?  Well almost!  But it is this insatiable thirst McGovern has for design that runs through every element he touches.  Even from his days at Lincoln it was clear that he intended cars to fit into every aspect of our live’s style and its this obsession that keeps his spirit alive in the sometimes drab and pre-packaged design circles of the automotive world.  It is not surprising that he of all people would pull Victoria Beckham into the mix, she is the embodiment of ‘lifestyle’ design despite all the predictable criticism the move has caused.

Green Car Design, GCD, caught up with McGovern in Paris minutes after the unveiling of the lovely Range Rover Evoque and found out where this new dad sees his recent appointment to Land Rover’s board might take him.

GCD : Hi, so tell me how have you been, its been a tremendous time for you!

McGovern : Yes, I am a dad! [proudly shows lovely pics]…its amazing.  I never thought, wow.  And all this [still buzzing after the unveiling] its where I want to be.

GCD : Now that you are on the board, what is your role, how has your job changed?

McGovern : Well when I first started in this industry all I wanted to do was design.  But now my job is so different and exciting.  I am not only in charge of design but also of the look and feel of the brand and I can influence the strategy to achieve that feel.  I am really advocating and recognising our customers, who incidentally have changed as well.  You heard about Victoria right?

GCD : Yes, what’s that all about?

McGovern : Well, people are all upset because they think she is going to overshadow their jobs but actually its like bringing the research to us.  She lives, publicly, the ultimate luxury lifestyle that some our customers aspire to live and like it or not we cannot experience that in our studios.  Much less outside, it would cost too much!  Its only when you meet her that you realise how in tune and astute she is, she runs her own fashion label, she is a mom, and global style icon.

GCD : And we are so excited about the 130g/km CO2 emissions!

McGovern : Yeah! You will find all the details in the press release but essentially we wanted the car to be lightweight and compact without sacrificing comfort.  Phil [Popham] here fits in the back no problem, ‘how tall are you?’…Phil ‘6’4”’.  We want to improve customer’s lifestyle by emphasising luxury and versatility so by minimising the overall structure and lines we made it more efficient.

GCD : What if anything would you want to singly achieve with this car?

McGovern : Its an emotional design, I like that.  Perhaps the more sophisticated the car the more people want to look after it by adding to it.  I also like that we used the Range Rover marque for its exclusivity together with the element of being elevated, regal, being above everyone else gives our customer a unique view ‘outside the box’.

GCD : How has the transition been to Tata, does it take away from the brand’s heritage?

McGovern : Oh its great, Ratan Tata is the nicest gentleman.  He actually has a degree in architecture!  He is very sympathetic to design and recognises its value.  He has stamped out the complexities of decision-making in the company and it’s much easier to get things done.  He shifted the status quo.

The show must go on, we get talking about family and how practical the Evoque will be for soccer moms the world over; 160 countries to be precise.  While perhaps McGovern might be breaking with some of the old school traditions associated with Land Rover he has honed in on what their customer’s ‘really really want’ today, and what they ‘really really want’ is a set of cool wheels with a clean conscience and some bling to boot ‘ta very much!