Gerry McGovern, Automotive Design Director at Land Rover, has been made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in The Queen's 2020 New Year's Honours.
The award was made in recognition of McGovern's contributions to automotive design. Although many Land Rover enthusiasts know of McGovern's work at Land Rover in the 2010s, his automotive career stretches back over forty years, in both the United Kingdom and United States.
The Order of the British Empire is the largest British order of chivalry, and it is awarded to those who contribute to the greater common good. It particularly recognizes contributions in art, science, sport, and charity. There are five classes in the Order; from highest to lowest they are Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GBE, a very small class), Knight/Dame Commander (KBE), Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE), and Member (MBE). New members of the Orders are announced at specific times during the year, most notably on The Queen's birthday and at New Year's.
McGovern began his career at Chrysler UK, and worked for them on both continents in the late 1970s and early 1980s. After a stint at Peugeot, he joined the Austin Rover Group in 1982, working on several concepts in the mid 1980s. These included the stalled concept AR6, a supermini to replace the popular Austin Metro, and the MG EX-E. He would work on the design of the MG-F, the last of MG's iconic roadsters. He even did early work with Land Rover, designing the first generation Freelander and doing early work on the third generation L322 Range Rover.
In 1999, McGovern was hired by Ford to help rejuvinate their Lincoln-Mercury division, moving to California where he set up a studio. In 2004, he was rehired by Land Rover (now a division of Ford Motor Company) as Director, Advanced Design. He was appointed Design Director in 2006 upon the retirement of Geoff Upex. He joined Land Rover's executive committee when the company was sold to Tata Motors in 2008. He now serves as Land Rover's Chief Creative Officer alongside his role as Design Director.
His career is best known for changing the look of the Land Rover line since 2011. His first major design of his new stint at the company was the LRX concept, shown in 2008. This concept became the 2011 Range Rover Evoque, which set in motion his complete transformation of Land Rover's design language. The Range Rover and Range Rover Sport would follow, alongside the all-new Range Rover Velar, then the new Discovery Sport and Discovery 5, and finally the new Defender. Now the cycle has begun again, and the first of his trademark designs, the Range Rover Evoque, has gone into a second generation.
McGovern's work at Land Rover has not been without controversy, and many dyed-in-the-wool Land Rover traditionalists usually speak his name in vain. His time in control of design has converged with global changes in safety and fuel economy requirements, and the regulated loss of the traditional Land Rover forms has been exacerbated by McGovern's modern, reductionist styling.
At the same time, his designs have been incredibly popular with the buying public as a whole, and Land Rover has broken sales records year after year. Their North American sales in 2019 broke all prior records. 94,736 Land Rovers found new homes, including 25,768 Range Rover Sports and 17,087 of McGovern's "avante garde" Range Rover Velar. Land Rovers may no longer be the simple Series trucks of the past, but under the hand of Gerry McGovern, they have found new success.
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