Land Rover is launching the all-new Freelander in the U.K., with the cross/utility vehicle's rollout to continue throughout Europe in first-quarter 2007 and the rest of the world, including the U.S., in the second quarter.

The rollout order reflects the fact the Freelander — to be called the LR2 in North America and the Middle East — is launching with a diesel engine first, says Phil Popham, Land Rover managing director.

Americans got their first look at the LR2 at the recent Los Angeles auto show.

Popham, who assumed his new post in April after 18 years with Land Rover, says there are no plans to offer a diesel-powered LR2 in the U.S. until it becomes more apparent there is a sufficient market.

“We will look at diesel trends in the U.S., but a niche manufacturer can't be the leader in this,” he tells Ward's.

Popham is encouraged by the trend in the U.S. to market fuel efficiency, noting the massive move to diesels in Europe was driven by regulations, gas prices and the proliferation of service stations offering diesel fuel.

The current-generation Freelander had annual sales of about 75,000 units globally.