The Defender is probably the most recognisable new car you can buy today, and like the Mini and the Jaguar E-type has become a British icon. That it’s actually still for sale at all given how useless it is as a road car is a genuine miracle – but that’s because it’s still an awesome off-roader, and commands huge respect with those who need mug-plugging ability across the globe. But it seems that there’s a possibility that the miracle may end within a few short years… according to AutoExpress magazine.
In an interview with the magazine, Colin Green said on the matter of the Defender’s replacement and continuing procrastination from the company: ‘If we get it wrong we are messing up one of the industry’s biggest icons, and in that sense it’s a tremendous responsibility.’ The car is compliant with EU regulations until 2016, but according to reports, it’s unclear as to whether the company will invest in a new model to take the entry-level Land Rover line beyond this point.
In reality, the Defender’s survival beyond 2016 will centre on an all-new car that pays homage to the original, but which will be based upon the Freelander or Range Rover Sport platform. Green continued: ‘Another option is to carry on the current model using Euro VI engines. A third is that we abandon that section of the market. It’s our least preferred choice because we have serviced that customer base for a long time, but there’s no point in servicing the customer and not the business. We have to make money and all three options are on the table.’
Land Rover has had several attempts at replacing the Defender/Series cars in the past, most notably the SD5 project from the 1970s, but they have come to nought due to finance issues, alternative priorities, and a programme of continued development has managed to keep the old car fresh enough to continue attracting buyers. The current car is certainly labour intensive to build, and an all-new, streamlined car, aimed at the same market sector would probably please Land Rover bosses more than any other.
We’ll see how it plays out in the coming months.