My name’s Paul and I’m a petrolhead. There, I said it. When it comes to cars I’ve never really grown up – I’m basically a 12-year old with a driving licence.
In my role as Head of Visual Design at LINE I often conduct first-hand research to get under the skin of a client’s business. This helps to develop key insights into their brand and how they operate. Also, finding out how their staff and customers think and feel can help us develop programmes that really resonate with them at an emotional level – and in many cases change their behaviour. With this in mind it will come as no surprise that, as both a designer and self-confessed car-nut, I particularly enjoy having Jaguar Land Rover as a client.
Imagine my excitement when I received an invitation to the Land Rover Experience (LRE) Factory Tour.
From the moment you arrive at the security gate of the Solihull plant you get a sense of what is to come. As you might expect there are Land Rovers everywhere – customer and staff vehicles, but also more excitingly those just inside the gate that have recently left the production line, without number plates and in some cases still partly wrapped in plastic.
From the gate to the Land Rover Experience Centre is quite a lengthy drive, but I suspect deliberately so. It takes you along the perimeter road, past some key parts of the factory and a glimpse of the LRE off-road trail.
Arriving at the LRE Centre we are greeted cheerfully by staff and invited inside where we meet Graham, our guide for the day. He asks us a few questions about what we want from the visit and our level of interest in Land Rovers and cars in general. In the end we ask to be treated in the same way as a VIP customer who has come to collect their new car. Graham is only too happy to play along.
He starts at the beginning with a talk about Land Rover’s rich history and heritage, and then gives us a look at the map of the site. Graham reels off facts – dates, events, people – and it’s immediately clear that what he doesn’t know about this place probably isn’t worth knowing.
Our history lesson complete, we climb aboard an all-new Range Rover waiting by the door. It’s a beautiful and imposing machine. My 12-year old self is already prickling with excitement.
Graham takes us slowly back along the perimeter road, all the time telling us enthusiastically about the car we’re in and the interesting landmarks outside.
We are then taken on a 3+ hour tour of almost all the different stages of a build. I say ‘almost’ as we weren’t able to see was the Paint Shop – understandably, since its hermetically sealed environment is not particularly visitor-friendly.
We go through the ‘Press Shop’ with its monster metal pressing machines that create body panels, through to ‘Body In White’, the assembly plant, complete with the characterful laser-guided robots endlessly manoeuvring, riveting, glueing, welding the panels together with frightening accuracy and speed. Next comes ‘Northworks’, where men work in choreographed teams installing engines, interiors, wheels, lights – each car taking its unique combination of features according to a long and detailed specification sheet.
And that’s when you realise that every one of these cars already belongs to someone, somewhere in the world. We could see American, British and Chinese specification Range Rover Sports, and all-new Range Rovers, being assembled together. To say it’s impressive is a massive understatement. It’s wonderful, awe-inspiring stuff. All this whole time Graham has been feeding our excitement with his own genuine enthusiasm, constantly throwing facts and figures at us. It’s mind-blowing. My 12-year old self is simply in automotive heaven.
We leave the ‘Northworks’ building with our heads spinning, trying desperately to remember everything that Graham had told us, and climb back aboard the beautiful Range Rover waiting for us outside.
And then, as if all of that wasn’t enough, we head to the specially built Visitor Centre where we as the customer would come to collect our new vehicle. We are guided through this stunning building by a concierge to the VIP lounge with high ceilings and luxury boutique styling.
There’s also a cinema-style theatre that provides an introduction to the brand via an amazing audio and visual experience. We then move through a hidden door into a darkened room where our Range Rover is spectacularly unveiled using the world’s first application of 3D augmented projection mapping onto a moving vehicle. It’s almost too much for the senses to bear – I’m speechless.
Here’s a video, but trust me, you have to see it for yourself…
We left entirely convinced that these vehicles are the best in the world and that the Jaguar Land Rover brand is stronger than ever. My 12-year old self and I now want to own a Range Rover, and that’s all there is to it.