There’s also no news about the structure underpinning the new Defender, but it looks likely to be a version of the company’s aluminium monocoque with the addition of a substantial aluminium superstructure in order to make the architecture as stiff and rugged as possible.
This technique – mixing a monocoque passenger cell and a separate steel chassis – was used under the Discovery to great success but resulted in a vehicle that weighed more than two tonnes. Repeating the exercise in aluminium should provide even greater structural rigidity than the Disco 4, with much reduced all-up weight.
With the new Defender being pitched as “premium durability”, it will come with the new Ingenium four-cylinder turbocharged diesel and petrol engines as well as V6 engines, Autocar understands. They will be connected to eight and nine-speed automatic gearboxes as standard, but there is no definitive news on whether there will be the option of a manual transmission.
JLR is determined that the new Defender will be able to thrive in the world’s harshest conditions, to the extent that it will be able to ‘plug into’ existing component networks by using the same wheel and tyres sizes as Toyota’s Land Cruiser and Hilux.
Autocar has been unable to substantiate rumours that the new Defender also uses the same bolt circle diameter to make wheel replacement easier in places such as central Africa.
The premium durability theme for the new Defender extends to the interior. Land Rover’s design team is aiming for a cabin that is distinctly more upmarket and better made than that of the Land Cruiser, for example.
This, combined with the intention of world-class mechanical durability and off-road ability, should give the Defender a decisive difference in this market niche. The extra luxury and comfort should also make it more appealing to affluent urban buyers.
Q&A with Phil Popham, JLR marketing director
What’s behind the recent massive increase in Land Rover sales?
Product has been the driver. Six years ago, when the recession hit, we made the decision to cut costs but keep investing in new products such as the new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. We’ve gone from an annual cash outflow of around £1 billion to a similar amount as a cash inflow.
We’ve also seen a very high proportion of conquest sales with the two new Range Rovers, so we are pulling in customers who are new to the brand. There’s also a four to six-month waiting list for the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, which shows the strength of demand.
In the future, we will have great manufacturing flexibility, with the two Range Rovers and the [next] Discovery being built on the same production line. Product demand drives our manufacturing strategy.
Why are profit margins so high?
We sell a very rich mix of vehicles. Buyers are keen to purchase a lot of the options and accessories on offer. We’ve also invested heavily in developing markets such as Russia and China. JLR sold 6000 vehicles in China in 2008. Last year, we sold 100,000 vehicles.
We are also seeing strong residuals for our models and that’s reflected in monthly payments. Even at the premium end of the market, buyers want to spend less running their vehicles. Total cost of ownership is a big issue.