Chemical giant's Defender replica would have its sights set on African and US markets; feasibility study to be finished in December

An Ineos built replica of the Land Rover Defender would most likely retain a diesel powertrain in order to be reliable and tough enough for customers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The model, which would be be built and badged as an all-new car, but bear strong resemblance in both look and character to the Defender, is currently being considered for production by chemical giant Ineos.

The firm is due to carry out a feasibility study to see if the model is econonically viable for production this year, with the results due in December. If the results are positive, Ineos's director has told Autocar the model is likely to feature a powertrain and underpinnings borrowed from another automotive brand.

"Fundamentally we're not in the industry so we'd want to partner with an experienced brand," explained Tom Crotty. "We think there is an ongoing market for the vehicle if you can make it reliable and conform to [safety and emissions] regulations. We've done a lot of stuff in Africa and they love [the Defender] out there, but they don't love its reliability."

New Land Rover Defender due in 2019

Crotty suggested that sticking with a proven powertrain would be most appropriate, given that it would have to be reliable in extreme climates and conditions. "[An] electric [drivetrain] is too advanced - this car needs to work to work in Sub-Saharan desert," he added, before confirming that the old Defender's Ford Transit-derived diesel engine would definitely not be used.

Crotty cited the US and Africa as key markets to be considered for the new model, adding that the US was a largely untapped market for the original Defender. "It's the world's biggest buyer of SUVs and a market of more than 300 million people," he said.

Ineos wants to retain the character of the original Defender, but admits a new model would be "significantly upgraded" in order pass increasingly stringent safety and emissions tests.

"Some of the development would include ground-up design, and some of it would be smaller manufacturing detail changes," explained Crotty. "We’re used to managing enormously high reliability with our machines [in the chemical and energy industries]. The Toyota Land Cruiser will be a benchmark for reliability."

Will it make production?

Ineos first revealed its intention to build a reborn Defender to the press earlier this month. The company, headed by billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, revealed it had held talks with Jaguar Land Rover about the possibility of putting the Defender back into production, but the car maker has repeatedly dismissed the idea.

“There is no way this is happening,” a JLR spokesman said. “We’re not going to let anyone build our Defender.” 

Despite JLR’s stance, Ratcliffe said in an official statement just days later that he was a great admirer of the Defender and is determined to bring it back in some form. “I think the Defender can be upgraded to be the world’s best and most rugged off-roader,” he said.

Ratcliffe added that there would be few copyright issues to overcome due to the Defender’s age.

New northern production plant

Ineos says it will make a final decision regarding the model once the results of its feasibility study are compiled at the end of this year.

If plans go ahead, Ratcliffe wants to build a £250 million plant in the north of England capable of producing up to 20,000 vehicles a year.

When asked about the Ineos model's pricing, Crotty said he expected it to be similar to that of the original Defender, which started at about £20,000. "You want to be in the [price] bracket that the Defender finished at otherwise you’re going to be way out of the market," he explained. "Africa is a very important market, so is the agricultural market, and the US, too. All of these things set your price point."

Crotty suggested that it could take two to three years to get the project moving once the study is complete.

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Land Rover Defender

The Land Rover Defender is an institution and unbeatable off road, if crude on it

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Comments
13

18 July 2016
JLR would be mad to let somebody build an old version of their car, unless perhaps it looked different enough and had a totally different name. But if you wee going to change it that much you may as well build from scratch. Citing the Land Cruiser as the reliabilty benchmark suggests great naivity.

18 July 2016
could unravel the phrase 'due to the Defender's age, there will be few copyright issues to contend with' The Defender is nowhere near as old as people like to pretend - it's not a series Land Rover, and so by no means 'nearly 70' - so is this idea nonsensical or does this chap have a point?

18 July 2016
Bullfinch wrote:

could unravel the phrase 'due to the Defender's age, there will be few copyright issues to contend with' The Defender is nowhere near as old as people like to pretend - it's not a series Land Rover, and so by no means 'nearly 70' - so is this idea nonsensical or does this chap have a point?

They might get away with copying the 1948 version, but I bet LR have copyright on every tiny change they've made to it over the years and there will have been thousands even quite recently.

18 July 2016
Just import the Santana from Spain - better stronger engine is the only difference in this licence built Defender
John In Spain

19 July 2016
No-one wants a secondhand Santana.

18 July 2016
I wish him the best of luck. JRT did with the Defender what Rover did to the mini. They made the minimum number of updates to keep sales going, whilst milking the image to give credibility to their plastic-clad blingmobiles. To succeed in the market as anything other than a curiosity, the Defender badly needs major safety & powertrain upgrades. The Ford 2.2 was woefully inadequate, the lack of airbags unforgivable, and the solid axles antiquated. I own two Defenders, a 300TDI, and a 2.2 Puma, and would love to own a modernised version. However, I very much doubt that Ineos will be able to fund & resource the necessary upgrades whilst also improving reliability, a task which has defeated industrial behemoths BAe, Ford, and Tata.

19 July 2016
If Jim Ratcliffe wants an updated and improved Defender why risk Millions of pounds trying to update the current model especially as JLR are unlikely to ever agree to this. Better to spend his Millions on a better cause and simply wait to buy the new Defender, when JLR finally produce it!

19 July 2016
if this guy wants to spend that much on a flight of fancy.. I can sell him an acid tab for £250,000,000

19 July 2016
...on reading Autocar articles on this nonsense which is driving up traffic to their website.

Cynical? Moi?

19 July 2016
Seems a bit odd to look at both Africa and USA (don't forget Canada...) since they are at opposite ends of the market - the USA isn't a diesel market and the old 110 Defender had to be sold with an external rollcage so just copying a Defender would not hack it - maybe they should look at license building the 2004 Ford Bronco concept which had a lot of Defender styling cues.

No point importing a Santana - production stopped years ago and they didn't sell well in the UK despite having a Japanese engine.

I know Ineos as a salt manufacturer - at least they would be able to ensure there were no corrosion problems.

Anyone saying the budget isn't big enough to produce a vehicle should check out the Foers range. There are also a load of military vehicles being touted around clearly based on Defender styling/hard points.

A JV with Suzuki to produce a larger Jimny might be another option.

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