Currently reading: Reborn Land Rover Defender crucial to firm’s 2019 revival
Next-generation off-road icon due for autumn reveal as Jaguar Land Rover battles falling sales
Mark Tisshaw
News
4 mins read
28 January 2019

This year’s unveiling of the next-generation Land Rover Defender will crown the most crucial 12 months in Jaguar Land Rover’s history. 

The Defender’s reveal is scheduled for the autumn. A whole family of vehicles is set to be shown in order to demonstrate that the company is reinventing the model for the 21st century. As recent spy pictures have shown, the intention is to create a broader appeal than ever while including many nods to the model’s utilitarian 4x4 roots. 

The public unveiling of the Defender – and dealing with the inevitable backlash from purists no matter what the final production car looks like – is just one of several blockbuster events and launches JLR has in store over the next 12 months. 

Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque, the second-generation follow-up to the smash-hit original, will arrive this spring, to be followed later in the year by a heavily revised version of Land Rover’s best-selling model, the Discovery Sport. Finally the Defender will be revealed in what is turning out to be one of the most eagerly anticipated events the industry has yet seen. 

Jaguar will once again try to assert its influence on the junior executive saloon market with a heavily revised XE. Changes include a significantly updated interior, in order to give the car the kind of all-round appeal it needs to compete in the segment over and above the way it drives. 

Those changes will make it to the XF later in the year, while the company will also enjoy the crowning of its best-selling F-Pace range with a new SVR model. The company will also mark the first full year of sales of its first electric car, the I-Pace. In the background, development will continue of the next-generation – and all-electric – XJ, ahead of its likely reveal next year as a radical reinvention of Jaguar’s flagship as the firm continues its move towards being a more electric-focused brand

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This glut of important new launches arrives at a time of considerable belt-tightening at JLR. Since Tata bought JLR in 2008, its trajectory has been almost entirely upwards. However in recent months its sales and profits have been hit by a combination of a falling demand for diesel-engined models, the thawing of car sales in China brought on by the US-China trade war and the uncertainty around Brexit – an issue to which JLR is more exposed than perhaps any other manufacturer. 

Last October the company announced a turnaround plan designed to save £2.5 billion and improve cash flow over the next 18 months, including trimming the R&D budget by £1bn. The ‘Project Charge’ plan followed two straight loss-making quarters coupled with falling sales. 

The wide-ranging cost savings are being felt across the company. There have already been production shut-downs at the Castle Bromwich and Solihull plants, and the decision has been made to skip the upcoming Geneva show – an event that would cost a vast amount of money to support and attend at a time when JLR has no headline-grabbing new products to reveal. 

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The best way for a car maker to extricate itself from a perceived crisis is to create innovative new products that resonate with buyers, a strategy that represents the crux of JLR’s plans for this year following a quieter 2018. 

Since Autocar published the first spy pictures of the new Defender, several other variants have also been seen testing around the company’s Midlands base, as the production line for making the mules is up and running. 

An ultra-short-wheelbase three-door version has been spied along with a much longer and larger five-door, the latter both with and without spare wheels. This trio gives a glimpse of the extent of the range, which, it is understood, will run at up to 12 variants. 

A whole host of different bodystyles, from pick-ups to soft-tops, will be spun off the new model and fitted out with everything from ultra-utilitarian interiors to super-luxury versions, in order to broaden the Defender’s appeal and make the business case stack up. Initial launch models are set to include the shorter-wheelbase model with both hard and soft-tops and the larger hard-top, all of which have already been seen testing. Prices are expected to range from £40,000 to £70,000. 

That broad appeal is at the heart of the new Defender’s business case: it must be seen as having rough and tough, go-anywhere purist appeal at one end of the scale while also having broad everyday consumer appeal that will allow it to hit the volumes of around 50,000 units per year that will make the project viable. 

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A vast improvement in on-road manners will also play a key role, to which end the Defender will be built on a car-like platform and given independent rear suspension, as confirmed by the test mules. 

The spy shots give further clues to the design and engineering of the new model, including a side-hinged tailgate, short overhangs and boxy styling, all of which are designed to show the car’s off-road mettle. 

As Land Rover ramps up towards the Defender’s unveiling later in the year and an early 2020 on-sale date, development and testing of the new model will switch to the Arctic Circle for the winter months, with further hot-weather tests due in Death Valley in the US next year.

Read more

New Land Rover Defender: reveal confirmed for 2019​

Jaguar Land Rover factories to shut down temporarily in April due to Brexit​

Opinion: can the new Defender help turn around Jaguar Land Rover?​

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kowalski99 29 January 2019

Where are the round headlights?

Seriously, what a massive mistake not fitting round headlights. They could of even used the previous generation's headlight cowling thus having a direct link from the previous gen. 

I guess they may see sense in the facelift?

Oh and rename the Discovery Sport the Freelander whilst taking a couple of grand of the pricelist. There- good days work!

kowalski99 29 January 2019

Where are the round headlights?

Seriously, what a massive mistake not fitting round headlights. They could of even used the previous generation's headlight cowling thus having a direct link from the previous gen. 

I guess they may see sense in the facelift?

Oh and rename the Discovery Sport the Freelander whilst taking a couple of grand of the pricelist. There- good days work!

kowalski99 29 January 2019

Where are the round headlights?

Seriously, what a massive mistake not fitting round headlights. They could of even used the previous generation's headlight cowling thus having a direct link from the previous gen. 

I guess they may see sense in the facelift?

Oh and rename the Discovery Sport the Freelander whilst taking a couple of grand of the pricelist. There- good days work!