Land Rover has finally begun work on replacing the iconic Defender, a project that insiders describe as the most ambitious ever undertaken by the British car maker.
Last week John Edwards, Land Rover’s new global brand director, said the company was “serious about replacing the Defender” and revealed that the first results of the project “would be seen in the next two to three years”.
Autocar can reveal that the new project will involve a huge investment by Tata, Indian-based owner of Land Rover. As well as a brand new platform and factory space, a wide range of body styles is expected to include station wagons and pick-ups, as well as bespoke specials for commercial customers. The first of the new models is expected to roll off the production line by mid-2015.
It’s thought that Land Rover is at work on the strategy stage of the Defender project, with the engineering, design and marketing divisions deciding the number and type of variants, and the likely sales volumes.
Autocar understands that once a firm plan is established for the new Defender, a concept will be readied for early 2013.
Although Land Rover sold just over 18,000 Defenders last year, it still feels that the vehicle defines the company. The decision to make a huge investment in a traditional Land Rover is based on a huge market research programme that has divided the global SUV into three segments: luxury, leisure and utility.
The global utility SUV segment is good for 3.25 million sales annually, a figure that’s set to grow by 25 per cent by 2017. By contrast, the global luxury SUV segment is currently good for two million sales and set to grow by 35 per cent by 2017. The leisure sector accounted for around eight million units last year.
The company believes it can no longer have a tiny share of the utility market that it partly defined, even though it will be hard to re-establish Land Rover in Africa and Australia, where Toyota’s Land Cruiser is the benchmark off-roader.