Land Rover will reveal a Defender concept car at this autumn’s Frankfurt show; a ploy intended not only to demonstrate that the company is serious about replacing the 63-year old classic, but also to gather feedback on whether it is heading in the right direction with the replacement.
Producing a successor to one of the world’s best-known vehicles is never easy, and it’s even harder when it must compete in a market that brand director John Edwards describes as ‘cut-throat’. Despite this, Edwards says that he ‘can’t imagine not producing a successor’ to the 63 year old four-wheel drive that established the Land Rover brand. But, JLR cannot compete on price with the pick-up and utility four-wheel drive offerings of its high volume rivals, so it must configure a Defender that has enough advantages to command higher prices without removing itself from the market.
Edwards is also keen that it should be adaptable to the needs of armies, not least for the highly profitable parts business that these contracts generate. The production version is scheduled for release in 2015, and must sell in annual volumes of 60-80,000 units to be viable.
Land Rover is currently exploring the possibility of using a cost and complication-reduced Discovery chassis or engineering a new, bespoke chassis among other options. Its design must allow for the wide range of body types that the Defender has long offered, and needs to be repairable in remote territory.
Edwards says that Land Rover is keenly watching the progress of the Argentina-built VW Amarok pick-up - some inside JLR argue that VW may struggle to make money because the pick-up market is so competitive. He believes that whatever solution Land Rover finally picks, ‘it won’t please everyone’, because with so many fans and opinions it will be difficult to avoid disappointing some. The challenge is to please most of them and more importantly, attract new buyers to a vehicle of which only 18,000 were made last year.