Land Rover is planning to build its all-new Land Rover Defender at the manufacturing headquarters of parent company Tata Motors in Pune, India. And it will probably send some models back to Europe for final assembly in the UK as part of a ‘reverse CKD’ operation. Land Rover already builds Freelanders in India for sale in Asia.

The new Defender plan, revealed by Tata chairman Ratan Tata in an exclusive Autocar interview, would have the twin benefits of lowering the manufacturing costs of a model Land Rover is determined to sell at affordable prices in Europe, and of locating a Defender operation close to key Asia-Pacific markets where it should sell strongly.

Read the full Ratan Tata interview in this week's Autocar magazine

The 2015 Defender, which Land Rover has decided will have body-on-frame construction as opposed to the monocoque design it also considered, will thus keep the configurability of today’s models while offering much more modern packaging, comfort, controls and dynamics.

It is likely that the Defender will use updated, lightened versions of Land Rover’s much-praised T5 ladder chassis, currently used for the Discovery and Range Rover Sport. The basic styling of Land Rover’s recent DC100 concepts is understood to be very close to that planned for the new Defender, although details such as wheels, lights, grilles and interior styling will all change.

If the Pune manufacturing plan is adopted, the Defender will share major chassis and suspension parts with a revised version of the Indian-built Tata Aria SUV, also made in Pune and due in several years’ time. The two chassis will not be identical but should be close enough in dimensions and specification to share the same manufacturing process.

The Pune Defender plan looks all the more workable because Tata recently announced plans to build back-to-back engine plants in Pune and Wolverhampton. Either should be able to provide the staple four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines a new Defender would need.

Steve Cropley

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