By on July 18, 2016

Defender90

Jaguar Land Rover isn’t about to have some upstart company build a new version of its iconic Defender.

The automaker shot back at rumors of a third-party resurrection of the boxy, beloved SUV, Autocar reports, stating that the previous-generation model will remain dead and buried as the company crafts a new model.

The Defender ceased production earlier this year, ending a production run that began in 1983. During that time, the SUV became a rugged favorite, findings fans ranging from African adventurers to Queen Elizabeth II.

Rumors and media reports stated that Jim Ratcliffe, founder of the chemical company Ineos, planned to restart production of the first-generation Defender in an undisclosed English locale. There had even been talks between him and Jaguar Land Rover executives, the stories claimed.

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

In an official statement, the automaker said: “We can confirm there are no plans to restart production of the previous generation Defender … The Defender remains a key part of our future product strategy, and the development of the next-generation model remains on track.”

The next-generation Defender is expected to ditch the previous model’s body-on-frame architecture and adopt an aluminum unibody. The new model, several variants of which are expected to be sold in the U.S., should appear before the end of the decade.

Despite JLR’s statement, Ratcliffe seems to want to have the last word on the issue. Today, the tycoon said his company is working on a feasibility plan for returning the old Defender to production, albeit with upgraded safety equipment and emissions controls.

“I am a great admirer of the Land Rover Defender and I think it can be upgraded to be the world’s best and most rugged off-roader,” Ratcliffe told Autocar. “We want to breathe new life into it and make it even better than before.”

The “new” old model would be built in northern England near a port facility with a £250 million investment, he said, adding that there could be copyright issues to deal with. Ratcliffe’s comments suggest he would build an export market knock-off using engines from another manufacturer, a plan that JLR would likely fight tooth-and-nail.

The British automaker recently filed a lawsuit against a Chinese manufacturer that sells a knock-off of its Evoque SUV.

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30 Comments on “Will an Outsider Build a New Defender? Over Our Dead Body, Says Land Rover...”


  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Oh, I didn’t realize the next Defender wouldn’t even be body-on-frame. Ah, well. The original had a great run, and we can import the earlier ones to the U.S. Maybe it’s time to think about what a Defender of the modern era means. Ideally, it’ll be federalized so that Land Rover can sell it here from jump. And hopefully, it’ll keep from being too close to a Range Rover.

    • 0 avatar
      vtnoah

      I don’t think that being body on frame is even necessary for the next Defender to be a great off roader. Just look at the XJ Cherokee as an example.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Kyree,
      It a pity the Defender has stopped. Toyota has given the 70 Series a five star safety rating.

      So, it’s possible the Defender could of been upgraded.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Kyree,
      I can’t believe no full chassis.

      How can they build a sturdy reliable pickup?

      Aluminium I can understand as they have used aluminium in the past.

  • avatar
    yamahog

    It’s a shame they don’t make ‘complete knockdown kits’ and build them in places without tough emissions standards. Toyota sells the Series 70 Land Cruisers band new in less-developed parts of the world and it seems like the Land Rover would appeal to the same markets.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      yamahog,
      The 70 Series as the Land Rover Defenders are sold in many modern nations. It’s a misconception to think of the 70 Series as a developing world vehicle.

      I’d say the biggest markets for these two vehicles are developed countries.

      They are used in developing nations because of their durability.

    • 0 avatar
      DownUnder2014

      Toyota does assemble LC70s in Portugal (for the African market however), they aren’t sold in Europe AFAIK.

      I agree. I’m sure Kit Production would be profitable (and also bring a competitor to the LC70!)

  • avatar
    Defender90

    We’ll see, although truly I don’t really expect L-R to let it happen, they seem intent on throwing away their authenticity. Possibly because their suburban buyers don’t really recognise something as authentic unless it’s backed by a publicity campaign.
    Reputations are hard won and easily lost.

    btw What’s with the “SUV”? In what way does a Defender seem “Sporty”? Utility Vehicle yes it is, very much so.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      re: “throwing away their authenticity”
      The same way Ford threw away their authenticity when they stopped building the Model T?

      If anything, the last Defenders had a reputation as poseur SUVs, used by the wealthy to drive from their country mansions to the high-end shops.

      I love the Defender, always have, but it drives like something from the 1940s (which it is).

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        heavy handle,
        Here in Australia a Defender pickup was probably the most common Defender model. They were around the same price as a 4×4 pickup as well.

        They were used extensively by any one after a 4×4 pickup.

        The posers buy Range Rovers.

      • 0 avatar
        Defender90

        I’m guessing you’re in the US.
        Here in the UK the Defender is what it was always designed to be a Utility Vehicle like I said in my post.
        Yes there were more civilised versions but it’s a farmer’s truck, electricity companies use them, the army uses them in many roles and tree surgeons pull wood chippers around with them.
        It drives like that because it has a live front axle and it’s set up out of the box to work. It’s not meant to feel nice it’s supposed to do the job.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      Agreed, many modern Land Rover vehicles are a shell of their former self with the only exception being the Range Rover. The Discovery looks like every other cute-ute out there – I was aghast at what LR did to that nameplate.

      I do love the old-school BOF Defender. If the next generation is a cute-ute unibody, it is not a Defender in the least.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Don’t confuse the Discovery with the Discovery Sport, which is (I think) what happened there.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          The Disco and not the Sport is quite a good off roader. I don’t know about the Sport, I have yet to see one off road.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          Good point. Article about the Discovery Sport being outclassed by some cute-utes:

          http://www.automobilemag.com/news/2016-land-rover-discovery-sport-hse-lux-rove-lightly-discover-diligently/

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            I think they just had the wrong tires for mud. And very little knowledge of off-roading in those conditions. They didn’t even realize that they could put the transmission in manual mode, or that there was a front tow-hook attachment.

            I love how they took it back to the dealership to get washed. Automobile journalists don’t know about independent car-washes and detailers. It’s not something they’ve ever encountered.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    Real talk: I’m a Defender-lover just like any other good car guy, but frankly, I think a lot of that is the same as the allure of the Skyline. It’s just “can’t get it here” lust. In reality, there’s precious little a Defender does that a Wrangler doesn’t that can’t be summed up by “well, anyone can buy a Wrangler, connoisseurs drive Land Rovers.”

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I could see the argument that LR did a much better job of promoting the Defender as a plausible working vehicle, and pursued fleet sales for it. The wider range of bodies, the hardtop models, and just a generally more utilitarian configuration suggest a more serious vehicle than the Bro-friendly Wrangler.

      But, I’ve read more than a few British comparos where they pick the Jeep as superior. When even the Brits begrudgingly admit an American toy is superior to the Queen’s chosen (non-chauffeured) ride, it’s a pretty good sign the Wrangler is significantly better.

      • 0 avatar
        Defender90

        I think the trouble is that many Wranglers in the UK come set up to handle nicer on tarmac which impacts their off roading prowess, Rubicon or modified models unleash their full potential I gather.

        Wrangler always seemed a solid design that’s been tuned in order for it to be driven up and down the beach strip with girls in bikinis standing in the back going “Wooo!”

        The Defender always suffered from the lack of a locking rear axle diffs… and that they leak inside, always smell of wet dog and gear oil, that the windows are permanently obscured by a combination of mist and dribble from wet noses and that you always get out of them with dirt under your nails. (It’s like they have some kind of hidden dirt generator hidden somewhere inside).

        • 0 avatar
          SSJeep

          The Wrangler Sahara is a bit more behaved on the highway – and frankly, is no better or worse on the highway than my last pickup truck. Most of the beach cruisers are Saharas or Sports.

          The Rubicon rides rough on the tarmac with every bump noticeably felt, but some people seem to prefer that, calling it “better road feel”… I like how the Rube drives myself.

          Either way, the Wrangler is a vast improvement over the Defender in reliability and usability. But the Defender just looks so cool and it is certainly capable off road.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Not to worry, I’m sure the Chinese will make a copy of it. For better or worse.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    The part that seems weird is the discontinuation of the Defender years before its successor is ready. The fact that the Defender could no longer be made standards compliant was hardly a surprise.

    Hell of a way to run a business.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I heard several years ago that LR was working on the Defender’s replacement. I really can’t believe they’d discontinue this one without having the new one ready.

      My guess would be money troubles and cut funding from Ford halfway through development? While I like the Defender from a stylistic-British-tweedy perspective, it doesn’t really work as a modern conveyance. Nor is it compliant with crash regs, emissions, etc. It was time for it to go, but perhaps the wind-down could have been a bit longer to allow for bow out and bow in of new model.

    • 0 avatar
      Defender90

      I know, it does seem odd. Even in image terms it comes across as strange in view of the fact that the Defender was the only rough, tough country 4×4 left in their range, not to mention being one the the very best in that class, and as such added to the image of the brand.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Full exoskeleton, air snorkel, skid plates, etc – that’s legit.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    Having an outsider take over and continue an existing model worked so well for the Lotus Super Seven when Caterham took it over, or for the Avanti.

    OTOH, it didn’t turn out so well for Saab.

  • avatar
    DownUnder2014

    It’s almost a shame they are discontinuing these without a successor (for now), even if it’s successor is radically different to the classic one.

    They don’t have an old-school 4WD left after the Defender gets discontinued.


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