As one of the most important new cars of 2019, the new Land Rover Defender was not a car that could be created in the space of a week.
We sit down with the reborn 4x4's designer, Gerry McGovern, to hear what the car means to him, how he wants the purists to react, what will happen to the Discovery, and more.
How did it feel starting work on a project that could define your career, regardless of all the success you’ve previously had?
“I’ve got big shoulders. If I was worried about it, I wouldn’t be able to get up in the morning. I know you can’t keep everyone happy and I have to take comfort from the fact that, as I and my team stand here, we are confident in the integrity of what we’ve produced. We had a brief to follow and we’ve delivered it confidently. Now we get to share the results.”
What do you hope the traditionalists’ response to the new Defender will be?
“My hope is they say it’s right for the brand today. Yes, lots of current owners will keep their current cars forever – but to be brutally business-like about it, there’s not much point designing a car for them in that case, is there?
“This vehicle has to appeal to an all-new generation of customers. I don’t want to alienate traditionalists but we couldn’t just design this car for them. We have paid respect to what’s gone before but to be harnessed by it would be suicide.
“This is a business and the old Defender, at the end of its life, was a niche vehicle. Take out corporate sales and it had around 4500 retail customers a year. That is not sustainable. This car needs to have universal appeal.
“I’m very bothered by the traditionalists and what they think – I respect their views, of course – but this couldn’t be another specialist vehicle only.”
Did the need to stay true to the car’s roots restrict you at all?
“No. This is a radical departure but nobody should have expected an evolution. I love the Defender as much as anyone else, and there are some cues and nods to the past, but this is a car for the modern world – a Defender for a new generation, and for new markets that never even had the old one.
“That said, I like to think that if the old car had followed a traditional pattern of new model updates, this is exactly where it would have come to. Rest assured, it is very capable, and that is all some buyers will want, but now it offers far more than just that angle.”