On reading Keith’s piece on the new Defender, I had to comment. If you have read my other blogs you will know that I did have a connection with Rover and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). I have been retired a number of years now and have no knowledge of future strategy, so any comments of mine are opinion.
Over the years I worked on three different programmes to replace Defender (BMW and Ford days). These were fully styled, and engineered to a fairly complete level. Each of these efforts failed in the same way: the business case was just not there. It was just not possible to develop a scenario that would deliver a credible Defender replacement and give a profit margin on each vehicle sold. Something needed to change to make this viable.
There was a desire to replace the Icon, it just didn’t seem possible. Icon you say? Well, yes – and easily demonstrated: BMW recognised that the Rover Group had two vehicle icons that were identified worldwide: the Mini and the Land Rover Defender. In those days, before widespread use of the Internet, if you walked into a large newsagents you would see all the mainstream car magazines and also some specialist car magazines… the odd BMW one, but mainly multiples of Land Rover and Mini titles. This was one of the reasons why the Rover Group was of interest to BMW – people loved these two cars.
The new Land Rover Defender does everything that Defender did and more, it is a genuine successor to icon. Its design is rightly understated, but it is obviously a Defender. The engineering is not understated – this is also right. The Engineering Team at Gaydon have done a fantastic job. It would have been so easy to use the outgoing T5 chassis, stick on a Defender-looking body and sell it at a lower starting price. Those Defender die-hards may say that this would be more like a credible replacement. This would have been a route to extinction of the Icon.
Instead, we have this halo product that will be the starting point for many new products – a Defender Sport could be a high-volume, entry-level product for the whole brand. Like MINI?
So, what changed to make this Defender viable? It had to sit at a higher price point in the market place – and have some of the toys that those customers expect. The other JLR strategy was to move to a lower-cost economy for manufacturing. I don’t know what the marketing volumes are, it would have been very difficult to predict high volumes, premium off roaders are not that common! The programme will be profitable at relatively low production volumes.
The hope for JLR is that buyers just have to have one and volumes increase – remember people love this car. I want one!
For all those people who think this is not a Defender – it was not possible to get the Defender you imagined – a low cost, go anywhere, farmer’s truck that is indestructible, wait and see if the Ineos effort is ever a reality. However, it will need to be built in either huge volumes and marketed at £20k, or sub-10K per annum and sold at £50k+. Neither of these seem likely…
Well done JLR, this product is outstanding. The Icon is back!