Registering Discontent

Everybody’s gettin’ down at the Disco, so Land Rover’s CCO gets his boogie shoes on.

Asymmetric or just plain odd? Image: autoexpress

Since Land Rover announced the current L462 Discovery last year, JLR and Land Rover’s Chief Creative Officer, Gerry McGovern have been batting away varying degrees of critical opprobrium over the vehicle’s rear-end styling – the Discovery’s offset numberplate positioning to be exact. A few weeks ago GMG expressed his defiance at the critical backlash associated with his creation, suggesting the problem was not of his making.

Speaking to Auto Express, McGovern made it clear that he saw no issue with the styling feature, instead suggesting LR dealers were at fault, saying, “You know what part of the problem is with that offset plate? It depends on what number plate you put on it. What we’re seeing is, and we’re going to rectify it, is a lot of our dealers are putting deeper number plates on the cars. And that compounds the problem.”

Gerry McGovern. Image: medialandrover

Discovery V was launched in 2016 and represents the biggest stylistic departure for the model since its inception, departing noticeably from the robust and rectilinear surfaces of its predecessors to a softer, less uncompromising form. The offending area of the tailgate was designed to reference the offset numberplate position which had become a Discovery staple, but its execution has been justifiably criticised as clumsy and unconvincing.

Image: Driven to Write

What this illustrates above all is the gulf that increasingly exists between styling and design. The asymmetric mounting of the rear plate on older Discovery models was a design solution dictated by practical considerations. On the new model, it’s simply another graphic element. Surface entertainment. Showbiz. What’s more McGovern knows it, although he tries manfully to cover his tracks.

“Overall, I like the design of the back of the Discovery for its asymmetry, because it’s tipping its hat to the Discoveries of the past. I think what’s happened is that there’s a whole variety of number plates. We’ve got a study going on at the moment and I don’t want to change that asymmetry, but we do need to do something about the number plates.”

While this is a neat line in papering the cracks, it simply won’t hold. McGovern asserts he isn’t bothered by the controversy, but the very fact he sees fit to defend his work suggests otherwise. Both he and his styling team have clearly got it wrong and furthermore, JLR management, blinded by their golden-boy’s persuasive powers and strong track record backed him. So while there is a germ of truth in his assertions, what we’re looking at here is an unconvincing attempt at brazening out a situation where retrenchment is the only reasonable option.

The US market solution. Image: nydailynews

Because little short of a new tailgate pressing will resolve this problem. Here, McGovern has two choices. One is to reprofile the cut-out to allow for a centrally mounted rectangular plate, or alternatively, to deepen the offset pressing to incorporate a square plate – as was fitted to Discos of yore. Either way, it’s likely to prove an embarrassing climbdown from a man who up to now appeared as though he could do no wrong.

What it means for Land Rover’s polarising and often abrasive design chief will probably rest on how expensive a mistake this proves to be. My hunch is while it might take a little wind out of his sails, it probably won’t lead to an X351 XJ-style banishment to the Siberian tundra. Meanwhile for those of us on the sidelines, the best we can do is to register our continued interest in the ensuing drama.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

13 thoughts on “Registering Discontent”

  1. If McGovern’s colleagues are reasonable they’ll see this as a merely an idea that didn’t work, the acceptable price of pushing boundaries. McGovern has a very good track record and in this instance it’s bad luck customers don’t accept what is really a very minor deviation from visual norms. This isn’t the Pontiac Aztek.

  2. Even if we overlook the gimmick of the offset plate, there is the entire rest of the car to contend with…

  3. How can a man with that sense of style (as evinced by the picture) be given the task of styling actual cars?

  4. What? No mention of Gerry’s Huntsman suits? Or was that Gieves & Hawkes? Heresy!

    In truth, the solution to this problem is much easier than it appears at first:

    View this post on Instagram

    Trying to address the imbalance. #autodidaktblog #landrover #landroverdiscovery #suv #styling #tilt #fail #gerrymcgovern #gaydon #hamburg #jaguarlandrover #suv #jlr #chelseatractor #diamondgeezer #cardesign

    A post shared by Auto Didakt (@autodidaktblog) on

    View this post on Instagram

    Trying to address the imbalance. #autodidaktblog #landrover #landroverdiscovery #suv #styling #tilt #fail #gerrymcgovern #gaydon #hamburg #jaguarlandrover #suv #jlr #chelseatractor #diamondgeezer #cardesign

    A post shared by Auto Didakt (@autodidaktblog) on

    Thank you.

  5. The back of this thing does remind me of the Aztek – it’s a pure bluff cliff. The vehicle itself looks like a restyle of the Ford Explorer which itself was a restyle of the Range Rover, and the whole thing looks clumsy.

    If I met an Englishman with an affinity for light mauve suits with a contrasting black shirt, I’d worry in an unfocused way. He just seems, like so many of these Euro stylits DTW has introduced me to over the past several years, entirely too interested in himself and his self-admitted genius.

  6. I think I take Richard’s point – it must of seemed like a good idea at the time and it’s naff but, on its own, would not stop me buying one (that’s a theoretical point). Interestingly, having seen quite a lot of the new Discos around (I live in SUV central), my main thought is that the ‘car’ often looks under-wheeled – I know, I can’t believe I’ve written that either, but it’s true! Overall I find it OK, just quit bland and not a patch on the Mk3.

    1. Thanks – I haven’t seen one. Eoin’s article reminded me they existed. I’d never want one of these. For me it’s an Opel Insignia 4×4 off-tracky thing, if even that. Or a Jimny.

    2. I’m quite excited by the prospect of the incoming Jimny. Having seen a number of examples of the Ignis on the road now, I’ve decided that I’m a fan and half wish that I’d been able to convince my wife to take one over the FIAT 500 which now adorns our driveway (although I continue to surprise myself with how much I like that car). Sorry, I got distracted … the link to the Ignis is that it gives me hope for a fun-yet-practical new Jimny that can take the spirit of the current car forward for another decade or so.

      On the ‘off-tracky’ version of the Insignia, I’ll admit that I considered going for the ‘Scout’ version of the Octavia Estate I ended up going for recently, but I’m pleased I came to my senses. Such cars offer very little – pseuds protective skid-plates for the front and rear valances/ bumpers, cladding to the lower doors, suspensions that are raised just enough to spoil handling but not enough to be of practical use when wading (how many times have you had to ‘wade’ in your car?), and AWD (which is available on other estates versions of the car – for a stupidly higher price. Such cars (Subaru Outback being a possible exception) just look daft, like the car is wearing fancy dress for a naff party, so best to save some cash and not bother, IMO.

  7. This time last week, Friday the 13th, me and a friend were at the home of Land Rover in Solihull. We took a full day to sample the new Discovery in and around the maze of tracks, watercourse and obstacles on the old Lode Lane.
    In short, superb. Capable, smooth, comfortable and hugely rewarding.
    I’d not seen too many before last Friday and have to admit I wasn’t at all sure of its back end. Having driven Discovery (Head of the family) I swiftly found I didn’t mind what the car looked like as it was so competent. I’ve never driven anything so large and for the first few seconds, cumbersome. But threading the machine through sinuous gaps, watery troughs and over things you wouldn’t walk upon, attitudes and opinions changed for the better.
    It was an expensive experience but we were treat royally and I have no other opportunity to mess around in vehicles costing 50k and above. Plus, for the afternoon, we got a go in the Defender to compare and contrast styles. Chalk and cheese, naturally but I’d choose Discovery. The Defender is pure mechanical fun but Discovery is out and out domination.; with comfy seats and good tunes to boot.
    As for that boot, yeah, I’d live with it now.
    No wonder folk driving these look smug. But only a small handful take up the free half day off-road experience when you purchase one. All that technology and barely used, such a shame.
    But wotta day

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