Land Rover is a British brand of four-wheel drive cars, that exclusively offers premium and luxury sport utility vehicles, owned by multinational car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover, which has been owned by India's Tata Motors since 2008. The initial Land Rover is regarded as a British icon, and was granted a Royal Warrant by King George VI in 1951. In 2001 it received the Queen's Award for Enterprise for outstanding contribution to international trade. JLR currently build Land Rovers in Brazil, China, India, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom.
The Land Rover name was originally used by the Rover Company for a 4WD, off-road model, now known as the Land Rover Series, launched in 1948. Over time, it grew into its own brand, (and for a while also a company), encompassing a consistently growing range of four-wheel drive, off-road capable models. Starting with the much more upmarket 1970 Range Rover, and subsequent introductions of the mid-range Discovery and entry-level Freelander line, (in 1989 and 1997), as well as the 1990 Land Rover Defender refresh, the marque today includes two models of Discovery, four distinct models of Range Rover, and after a three-year hiatus, a second genaration of Defenders have gone into production for the 2020 model year – in short or long wheelbase, as before.
Originally, the vehicles was simply called the Land Rover – an off-road capable car model of the Rover Company. The "Series" indication later became a retronym model name, once 'Land Rover' had started becoming a brand, with the introduction of the Range Rover in 1970, and eventually even a British Leyland subsidiary in 1978. In 1983 and 1984, the long and the short wheelbase Land Rovers were finally given official names — the One Ten, and the Ninety respectively, and together they were badged the Defender models in 1990, after the 1989 introduction of the new Discovery model.
The design for the original vehicle was started in 1947 by Maurice Wilks. Wilks, chief designer at the Rover Company, on his farm in Newborough, Anglesey, working in conjunction with his brother Spencer who was the managing director of Rover. The design may have been influenced by the Jeep and the prototype, later nicknamed Centre Steer, was built on a Jeep chassis and axles. The early choice of colour was dictated by military surplus supplies of aircraft cockpit paint, so early vehicles only came in various shades of light green; all models until recently feature sturdy box section ladder-frame chassis. Early vehicles like the Series I were field-tested at Long Bennington and designed to be field-serviced.
Land Rover as a company has existed since 1978. Prior to this, it was a product line of the Rover Company which was subsequently absorbed into the Rover-Triumph division of the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BL) following Leyland Motor Corporation’s takeover of Rover in 1967. The ongoing commercial success of the original Land Rover series models, and latterly the Range Rover in the 1970s in the midst of BL's well-documented business troubles prompted the establishment of a separate Land Rover company but still under the BL umbrella, remaining part of the subsequent Rover Group in 1988, under the ownership of British Aerospace after the remains of British Leyland were broken up and privatised.
In 1994 Rover Group plc, including Land Rover, was acquired by BMW. In 2000, Rover Group was broken up by BMW and Land Rover was sold to Ford Motor Company, becoming part of its Premier Automotive Group.