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Sport-utility vehicles used to be a niche product, and Land Rover of North America went after just the most upscale pocket of the niche.

But with sport-utilities now a mainstream product rolling to record sales, Land Rover is gearing up a drive for a bigger piece of the action by marketing its new Discovery directly to families.

With a $28,900 base price, the new model is the key to Land Rover's plans to quadruple U.S. sales to an eventual 20,000 vehicles.

The estimated $15 million Discovery introduction campaign, breaking April 11 on network and cable TV, combines the new appeal to families without sacrificing Land Rover's image for ruggedness and its trademark wit.

Three TV spots suggest that a vehicle built to withstand the rigors of wild terrain can stand up to an even bigger challenge-wild children. The tongue-in-cheek style is a hallmark of advertising by Land Rover agency Grace & Rothschild, New York.

"The one thing Land Rover has going for it is that great heritage and authenticity," said Roy Grace, agency chairman. "For the first time, Land Rover has a product that can succeed with significantly more volume."

The company's other products are two Range Rover models priced at more than $46,000, and a $27,900 Defender 90 that is an open-air vehicle. Land Rover's U.S. sales have been steadily rising in tandem with the overall growth of sport-utilities. Land Rover sold 4,907 vehicles in 1993, a 15.9% increase from the previous year, according to Automotive News.

Sales in the entire compact sport-utility segment rose 20.6% in 1993 to 1,197,908 vehicles.

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