After 67 years in production, and more than two million produced, many of which are still in severe use, late in 2015 the last Land Rover Defender will roll off the assembly line at Jaguar Land Rover’s Solihull plant. JLR says that the Defender’s demise is because it won’t meet new fuel emissions rules in the EU and cannot be adapted to do so. A replacement model is planned, to be launched in 2016. Land Rover has previously teased the DC100 concept as a possible Defender replacement. John Edwards, who is in charge of product at JLR, said that the Defender’s replacement will be “instantly recognized” by fans of the current Defender, but that it “won’t necessarily be cheap”.
It hasn’t always been called the Defender.
That nameplate was added in the 1990s as Land Rover expanded its lineup beyond what was then called the Land Rover 90 or 110, depending on the wheelbase, and the plusher Range Rover. In 1948, when the Rover company introduced its first off-road capable vehicle, said to be inspired by American military jeeps, it was simply called the Land Rover and it wasn’t plush. It was, however, a very capable vehicle that could traverse the most challenging terrain that a four wheel vehicle might ever see. The Land Rover developed a reputation as the prototypical go-anywhere vehicle.
JLR said that the decision to kill off the Defender was “mainly legislation based,” that stricter EU emissions standards by 2020 created “certain conditions the Defender just won’t meet.” The Defender isn’t cheap to make because it doesn’t share much with other JLR products and assembly is relatively labor intensive.
Ironically, a market segment that the original Land Rover helped create, the SUV, has passed it by. Though popular with UK farmers, the Defender is just a bit too rustic for the leather and piano black set.