Mind you, even McGovern admits you have to know when the engineers have “run out of spit”, as he puts it, and can’t compromise any further. Then you shake hands and strike an agreement. McGovern is probably the world’s most vocal exponent of simplicity and modernism in car design, not for hobby-horse reasons but because he believes it’s right for Land Rover. But there’s no doubting he’s a lifelong enthusiast of those design styles. “I was brought up in Coventry,” McGovern says. “It was rebuilt after the war using the modernist principles by an architect called Donald Gibson and there was a newness about the designs and a cohesive consistency in his approach that I always admired. I suppose it rubbed off.”
If timelessness is part of McGovern’s design picture, I ask, how does that square with the marque’s need to renew its models on a six- or seven-year cycle? It’s a challenge, the designer admits, but the advance of materials and techniques uncovered by his advanced tech group provides plenty of help. McGovern’s confidence about the new Range Rover, due out next year, is palpable: “Just wait. I guarantee your jaw is going to drop out of your head. I’d describe it as a compelling statement of modernity. You’ll know instantly it’s a Range Rover, but it’ll be very different.”
Of course, I want to know how and why. “I’m not going to tell you,” McGovern declares, then proceeds to drop a few hints. “It’s technology that is allowing us to make the progress you’ll see. The progress is in the way it’s built, the quality of the panels, the reduction of line work, the pressings, the closures, everything. It’ll look simple, but it’ll still have those optimised volumes and proportions…”
I’m about to ask how closely related the new Range Rover is to the design principles of the Velar (answer: a lot) but McGovern’s minder wants us to move on. The designer loves cars and talking about them so much that dropping the odd secret is not entirely unknown.
We talk about the Discovery, the one current design he agrees hasn’t been as successful as the rest. The lack of a Defender in the model line-up didn’t help, he says, but soon admits that it’s more than that: “I think I allowed myself – and the team – to be too influenced by the established visual DNA of previous Discoverys, stuff like the offset numberplate and the stepped roof.
“We could have stopped and thought: hang on, how important are they? I still think the Discovery looks good on the biggest wheels, but some models do have a massive rear quarter. Our facelift, which is imminent, will make changes that improve it significantly…”
It’s clear, however, that McGovern thinks the next all-new Discovery, probably four years away, will provide an opportunity for real change. “We won’t alter its breadth of capability,” he says, “but we’ll make sure it’s perfectly differentiated from the Range Rover and that’ll optimise its appeal.”
McGovern always radiates confidence (he knows people look up to confident leaders) so I’m keen to hear whether he has role models of his own. I’m half-expecting him to rattle off the names of sundry Scandinavian furniture designers from history but, without hesitating, he identifies someone to whom we can all relate.