Currently reading: Plans for new Land Rover Defender shaken up
Land Rover's plans to replace the ageing Defender with a more rugged vehicle have been scrapped

Land Rover’s plans to replace the ancient Defender with a new range of super-rugged, relatively basic off-roaders have been scrapped, according to sources close to the company.

Outline plans to build the new model in India, probably alongside a related Tata SUV, have also been dropped. A further consequence of the surprise move is that the planned JLR engine factory in India has also been put on ice.

Although a replacement Defender is currently in the works, John Edwards, Land Rover’s global brand director, has been quoted as saying 

the new Defender will not go into production in 2015 as originally envisaged. The current Defender will still be retired in 2015, however, partly because of the impossibility of meeting future legislation.

It is thought that the latest plans for the new Defender, 
which is certainly three years away, are to create a more premium-level product and build it on a version of JLR’s new, all-aluminium PLA architecture.

Land Rover’s aluminium body shop can currently handle 95,000 vehicles per year on three shifts, but there is already existing room for expansion to 180,000 units. Even so, Land Rover has started work on a further extension of the body shop, suggesting it expects to roll out more than four models based on the PLA platform.

The upshot is that it’s highly likely that a new ‘premium’ Defender will be a sister car to the next-generation flagship model of the expanded Discovery range (see p10), with both models based on a new, marginally smaller version of the PLA architecture.

Sources say Land Rover is confident of being able to buy aluminium at a highly competitive price from its new joint venture in Saudi Arabia. This, and premium pricing, means building the car in the UK would be cost-competitive.

Autocar understands that the decision to shake up plans to replace the Defender has been prompted, at least in part, by the fact that the health of the automotive division of parent company Tata is in question. After suffering a sales humiliation with the super-budget Nano, the company has also seen its new Aria SUV massively undershoot sales expectations. 

New car sales in India have gone into freefall in the past six months. Without Tata Motors making significant sales progress, any planned co-operation with Jaguar Land Rover on a back-to-basics Defender is 
not financially viable. 

Autocar also understands that the product development boss hired to oversee the new Defender argued strongly against using a separate chassis construction and trying to compete globally, particularly with Toyota, in the market for commercial SUVs.

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RCT V 30 May 2013

Muddy-booted agricultural and hard-working construction 4x4 vehs

Individual bolt-on aluminium body-panels, and a separate ladder-type chassis, may no longer be desirable, necessary, or commercially viable for a replacement for the Land Rover Defender. However, there are enough (other) distinguishing features that can and do characterise a Land Rover.

Steel spring suspension (even the leaf-springs that characterise the ubiquitous  Japanese opposition, in this market segment), and even a live-rear-axle, can be regarded as more appropriate for the work that is commonly associated with Land Rovers.  Plus, manual differential locking, and manual “hi-lo” range change. The option of removable rubber matting and an interior floor space that can be hosed out, would be appropriate.

The very attractive if rather "precious" interior of the Range-Rover models may not be appropriate for a Land Rover.  However, British design flair and élan, could and does continue to produce vehicle interiors, dashboards, and instrument binnacles, that are more desirable, and that are more attractive than the hard black plastic, funereal, examples still associated with the products of Japanese manufacturers.

It is the increasing preponderance of those Japanese 4x4 models, that emphasise how Land Rover seems to have forgotten its original customer base, and abandoned its original market segment. This could be a serious mistake. The integrity and cache that justify the price-premium of the more sophisticated Range-Rover models, is underpinned by the manufacturer’s well-earned and enviable reputation of making hard-working, mud-plugging, vehicles that are supremely capable and competent off-road.

Specifically, whilst along-side its more conventional three-door and five-door models, the Land-Rover Defender does have a double-cab pick-up model, it is being overwhelmed by the Japanese competition in this specific market segment. The success of such as the Toyota Hilux, show the bourgeoning marketing opportunity that has been missed by Land Rover!

Unfortunately, the next generation Land Rover, has been muted as nothing more than a light, recreational, price-entry model, for what would otherwise be a range of vehicles  comprised only of other more expensive models - all being different genres of Range-Rover.

Since the Freelander Mk2, grew in size at least two classes from the original Freelander Mk1,  there may well be a requirement for a smaller,  “lighter, recreational, price-entry model”  to support all the other Range-Rover models mentioned above. However, it would be a travesty of mismanagement, to squander the Land Rover “brand” reputation, and the marketing opportunities that would be abandoned, by bestowing the revered Land Rover name on such a Range-Rover range entry model. 

The Japanese have shown, and continue to show, that there is still a market - originally identified by Land-Rover all those years ago  -  for a full, whole, range of more rugged, utilitarian, hard-working, 4x4 vehicles.

With its well-earned reputation in making muddy-booted agricultural and hard-working construction 4x4 vehicles, Land Rover itself, literally invented, created the luxury SUV market with its Range-Rover models. The European competition, Volvo, Mercedes, BMW, and (it must now be accepted) Audi, all came to this market segment from a background of making conventional 4x2 luxury saloons. If Land Rover abandons its traditional market, and looses its historic customer base, it can only have a detrimental effect on the Range-Rover models and how they are perceived.


kourgath 24 May 2013

Why companies buy Defenders

I teach 4x4 off-road driving so often discuss and see what companies buy.  Often a gang will have two vehicles, a japanese style pickup (Hilux, L200 etc) and a Defender.

The Defender is bought because of the towing limit and loading with the equipment with the pickup used as a crew vehicle.  In my experience most drivers want to use the Defender when off-road but drive the hilux/L200 etc on the long journeys.

Land Rover really could do well with a version of Discovery chassis type of thing with a boxy body as per Defender to get the on-road comfort with off-road ability.

I am a Land Rover fan but don't think Jeep is a swearword.

foot of our stairs 21 May 2013

Expect them to rebrand the

Expect them to rebrand the whole thing "Range Rover" which is really what its all about now, and put the Whole Land rover thing on the shelf indefinitely which is more or less what they have done for years already, at least until someone comes up with a concept that can give it a re-boot, the DC100 nice enough car but it ain't it

Its difficult to see what or who the proposed model was really for, even though it looked OK it seemed a successor to the once popular with Hairdressers (sorry Cliche`) and quite good actually, Suzuki Sj40, rather than something that forms the bedrock of the credibility of the brand of LandRover. I think one thing LR marketing may be asking is do they need a Land Rover in the lineup? its many years since the Land Rover was king of the off roaders,  that  mantle passed to the ubiquitous japanese pick up, Except that is in the  minds of beardy Brits like me who still think they are cool because they will go up a near vertical muddy rocky farm track, even better if you make them look ridiculous with snorkels and monster truck Paraphernalia.