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Frankfurt show: Land Rover's Defender replacement

Defending the future: Land Rover’s DC100 Defender replacement concept will have to win over hordes of die-hard purists when it goes public at Frankfurt on September 13

Chunky DC100 concept previews successor to Land Rover Defender, due 2015

31 Aug 2011

BRITISH mud-plugging brand Land Rover has unveiled first images of its DC100 Defender replacement concept ahead of its world debut at Frankfurt on September 13 and confirmed it intends to put an all-new Defender into production in 2015.

Land Rover’s director of design Gerry McGovern said the DC100 is not a production-ready concept and that the company plans to “engage with existing and potential customers to help us finalise the details of the new vehicle”.

The company will understandably be meticulous in its market research and closely assess public reaction to the concept, for redesigning a vehicle that can trace its lineage back 63 years can pose a huge risk of alienating purists and die-hard fans.

However something had to be done about the Venerable Defender as its age-old design falls foul of safety and emissions laws in some of Land Rover’s 174 global markets, forcing it to withdraw the model and limiting sales to fewer than 20,000 per year.

Global Brand Director John Edwards said the Defender is “loved the world over for its simple, honest and distinctive design”.

“We are determined that the new Defender will be true to its heritage, while meeting the requirements of a changing global market.”

24 center imageLeft: Jaguar C-X16 teaser sketch. Below: Current Defender.

Land Rover has shied away from going all-out retro with the chunky two-door short-wheelbase concept that previews a replacement for the stubby Defender 90 and appears to have reached a far neater conclusion than rival Toyota did with its junior Hummer-esque FJ Cruiser.

Instead it mixes modern Land Rover design themes from the Discovery and Freelander with traditional Defender design cues like the shape of its roof, wrap-around rear-quarter windows, upright door mirrors, rear-mounted spare wheel and flat-topped front wings.

Its almost-circular headlights feature blue-tinged daytime-running lights that have a frosted appearance similar to those of the Mini Rocketman concept from the Geneva show in March – and the way the windscreen wraps around the A-pillars to meet the front side windows also borrowed from the BMW-owned British retro brand.

Although the DC100’s rounded front-end – surely influenced by the need to improve aerodynamics – suggests a softer vehicle, Land Rover has kitted it out with a winch and twin tow-points that allude to the off-road credentials required to secure its credibility.

The lower half of the DC100 also packs plenty of rugged black plastic mouldings and Land Rover provided an image of the mud-spattered vehicle negotiating a rocky slope.

It is not yet known whether the new Defender will become available in multiple bodystyles like the existing model, which comes in three wheelbases across passenger- and commercial-vehicle variants.

Mr McGovern said replacing an icon like the Defender is “one of the biggest challenges in the automotive design world,” with the DC100 representing the “beginning of a four-year journey to design a relevant Defender for the 21st century”.

“It’s going to be an exciting journey, and we can’t wait to get going,” he said.

As GoAuto has reported, the Defender replacement is part of a complete renewal of Land Rover’s line-up by 2016 as part of a Tata-backed £1.5 billion (A$2.3 billion) product development blitz encompassing sister brand Jaguar, which will also use Frankfurt to debut a concept in the shape of its C-X16 sportscar.

Speaking at a media event before the Melbourne motor show earlier this year, Jaguar Land Rover group sales operations director Phil Popham said it took five years for his promise of a new Defender to get into the Land Rover product cycle plan.

“Part of the reason it has taken so long for us to decide how we are going to approach this is, how do you replace an icon … that sells in many segments but in small numbers,” he said.

Although work to define the new Defender’s role in various markets is ongoing, Mr Popham said the company had “come to the conclusion that we can make money” out of a Defender replacement.

He revealed that Mr McGovern regarded the Defender project as the “most exciting thing, even beyond the Evoque”.

The Defender replacement will have a task on its hands if it is to reclaim favour in Australia and Africa where the Toyota LandCruiser has usurped Land Rover’s offerings as the favourite vehicle with which to go bush.

Land Rover was dealt a further blow when the Australian Defence Force signed a contract with Mercedes-Benz in 2008 heralding the switch from Defenders to the G-Wagen.

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