Land Rover was among the first automakers to forge a path in the highly profitable market for luxury sport utility vehicles, simplifying the technology for affluent but inexperienced off-road drivers. But the foreign-made rivals in the British company’s rearview mirror have grown closer than they might appear. 


On Thursday, Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc asked a U.S. trade agency to block the import of Volkswagen Group’s Porsche, Lamborghini, Audi and Volkswagen SUVs it says are using its patented Terrain Response system without permission. Jaguar Land Rover, which is owned by India’s Tata Motors Ltd., said in a filing with the U.S. International Trade Commission that the technology helps negotiate a “broad range of surfaces” and is a key feature in Jaguar’s F-Pace and Land Rover Discovery vehicles.

“JLR seeks to protect itself and its United States operations from companies that have injected infringing products into the U.S. market that incorporate, without any license from JLR, technology developed by JLR and protected by its patent,” Land Rover’s lawyer, Matthew Moore of Latham & Watkins, said in the filing. A spokesman for Volkswagen declined to comment on ongoing litigation. 

Super-luxury automakers began moving into the SUV market about five years ago. JLR’s Land Rover division, the original maker of rugged all-terrain vehicles, is seeking to fend off competition as other carmakers push into the space, including the upscale Bentayga from Volkswagen’s Bentley nameplate and the Levante built by Italy’s Maserati. Land Rover wants to block imports of Porsche’s Cayenne; Lamborghini Urus; Audi’s Q8, Q7, Q5, A6 Allroad and e-tron vehicles; and VW’s Tiguan vehicles. It said there are plenty of other luxury midsize SUV and compact crossover vehicles to meet consumer demand if the SUVs are banned from the U.S.

Still, the premium Porsche and Audi lines provide much of the profit VW is using to fund its investments in technology for electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and further innovations.