LOS ANGELES – The LR2 cross/utility vehicle, which makes its world premiere here at the L.A. Auto Show, is the first Land Rover to share architecture with other Ford Motor Co. models.

At $34,700, the LR2 (called Freelander everywhere but North America and the Middle East) also is the lowest-priced Land Rover on the market.

“The potential capture rate of people as you go down in price spreads exponentially,” Richard Beattie, executive vice president-marketing and sales for Land Rover North America, tells Ward’s.

The second-generation Freelander goes on sale in Europe early next year. The LR2 is slated to hit U.S. showrooms in the spring.

Sharing Ford’s EUCD platform that also underpins the Volvo S80 and upcoming Ford Edge CUV and ’08 Volvo XC60, the LR2 will compete mainly with the BMW X3, Beattie says, while contending with at least a half dozen other ’09 segment entries.

“At last they’ll have some competition,” he says of the premium German rival BMW AG.

Beattie says the LR2 will stand out because of its off-road capability as well as other features, such as 3,500 lbs. (1,588 kg) of towing capability.

The LR2 also marks the first time a Land Rover has been built outside the main facility in Solihull, U.K. The CUV is assembled at the Halewood, U.K., plant that also builds the Jaguar X-Type.

“There’s plenty of upside capacity if it’s available, but we’re purposely not building too much capacity in. We have that flexibility,” Beattie says, adding the auto maker does not want to end up with overcapacity.

Meanwhile, Beattie expects Land Rover will see record worldwide sales this year, on top of 14% growth in 2005. Global sales are up 6.7% through October, he says.

In the U.S., Land Rover sales were up 8.2% for the first 10 months, according to Ward’s data.

scanderson@wardsauto.com