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Family matters: Why the Mustang, Defender and other famous nameplates are set to grow in the future

Ford used the Mustang name to make its electric SUV have more appeal - and it could be only the start of a 'Mustang family'.

Jaguar Land Rover announced a radical reimagining of its entire organisation recently, and while the news that the company would invest £15 billion on the project was the obvious headline, there was a lot more beneath the surface.

Namely, that the Land Rover part of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) would be fading into the background. While not completely disposed of, the Land Rover badge is set to be used far more sparingly in future, and instead each model in the line-up will take on more significance. 

JLR gives this strategy the grandiose label - ‘House of Brands’ - with the Land Rover name taking a backseat as Range Rover, Defender and Discovery become brands unto themselves. According to JLR, the goal of this strategy is to “amplify the unique character of each of its brands” by simplifying the naming structure and clearing up any potential confusion. After all, the official name of the brand’s range-topping luxury model is the Land Rover Range Rover - but it’s unlikely you or any of your friends have ever called it that.

Under this new strategy, not a lot will likely change for Range Rover, with the Sport, Velar and Evoque likely to remain as the smaller models in this new structure. The Defender will likely remain with its 90, 110 and 130 naming strategy, but Discovery and Discovery Sport have potential for expansion as JLR moves into an increasingly electrified future with a need for more urban-sized models.

While not using the same sort of elaborate language, Ford has employed a similar tactic with its ‘iconic’ vehicles, creating multi-model ‘families’ that allow popular nameplates to spread into new areas. The Mustang pony car spawned the Mustang Mach-E electric SUV and the Bronco comeback included the Escape-based city-sized Bronco Sport.

It’s a tactic that Ford’s archrivals at General Motors will follow, with the Corvette name reportedly set to expand into the electric and SUV markets in the near future.

If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll notice there’s a theme amongst most of these ‘family’ plans - electrification. As the automotive world moves towards an increasingly electric future the difference between models will likely be reduced, even more than the current state of shared platforms and powertrains for internal combustion engine vehicles. It also means asking consumers to take a risk on a new type of technology that most buyers will not have experienced before.

So, to make it more palatable and appealing, carmakers will look to utilise familiar and beloved nameplates to attract buyers. It has worked very well for Ford, with the Mustang Mach-E arguably enjoying more success than if it carried the Escape or an all-new name on the badge.

Jason Castriota, Ford’s global director of EVs that oversaw the creation of the Mach-E, told Road & Track in a 2020 interview about the reasons behind using the Mustang name for its new electric SUV. 

The Land Rover badge will be disappearing from models like the Defender.

“The idea of 'how do we stand out in the crowd', 'how do we cut through all the noise and the clutter of yet another all-electric vehicle', became really the essential question that we had to solve,” Castriota told the US publication.

In the same interview he hinted that more is to come, both for the Mustang family but also other potential Ford families.

“I don’t think the Mustang name can be applied to any form,” Castriota said back in 2020. “I certainly wouldn’t envision a Mustang pick-up, for instance. Or a Mustang commercial van. But I think vehicles that can capture performance, moving people fast and free… We feel that it’s definitely worthwhile exploring the other potentials for our great brands.”

And this won’t just be the case for Ford, as JLR’s decision demonstrates, more and more brands will likely look to create families of vehicles or sub-brands around a specific nameplate in the coming years in a bid to ease the transition into the electric age. 

Stephen Ottley
Contributing Journalist
Steve has been obsessed with all things automotive for as long as he can remember. Literally, his earliest memory is of a car. Having amassed an enviable Hot Wheels and...
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