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No new Land Rover Defender until at least 2016

Defender Debater: The DC 100 concept divided opinion amongst Landie fans but, when it arrives, the Defender replacement wont bare much similarity.

Land Rover still debating on more mainstream replacement for legendary Defender

26 Jun 2013

LAND Rover’s replacement for the legendary but soon to be discontinued Defender is still up to four years away.

The original Defender started it all for Land Rover – it premiered in 1948 as a post-War British take on the Willy’s Jeep and has hardly changed in appearance since – but will be phased out around 2015 (at least in developed markets) in the face of strict new safety and emissions regulations.

This could feasibly mean an interim period between generations where the brand may be without a Defender offering.

The company illustrated its plans to take the design into the modern era with the radical – and polarising – DC100 concept at the 2011 Frankfurt show, but soon after admitted the road-going version would bear few similarities.

Land Rover is now understood to be weighing up how best appease traditionalists while taking the model’s design and execution into a more mainstream direction.

“We sell 16,000 defenders at the moment, and I don’t want to sell 16,000 Defenders a year when we launch the new car, we have significantly larger ambitions,” says Land Rover global brand director John Edwards.

“I can’t tell you exactly what the new car will be, and exactly when it will be, but it will be in the second half of this decade, hopefully in the first half of the second half of this decade.” Mr Edwards, speaking to GoAuto in Australia as part of a trip originally scheduled around the axed Melbourne motor show, said it wasn’t enough to make a small number of vehicles for a limited – albeit loyal – client base The brand, he says, must think bigger.

“The current owners are important and very loyal – we’ve sold more than 2 million in one form or another – but we need to look to the future, so we’re talking about re-inventing it,” he said.

Asked if this would involve softening some of the current, utilitarian model’s rough edges – the current version is tough but doesn’t compete on safety or ergonomics – Mr Edwards said: “that’s one line of thinking”.

“Another line is that we are fortunate that we own an iconic design language, and you want to mimic that language as much as you can, so somewhere between the two lies the answer.” One design that is definitely not the answer is the comparatively low-slung but still angular DC100, which according to Mr Edwards was “deliberately put out there to push the boundaries” – a statement that reflects the sentiments design director Gerry McGovern expressed to us last year.

“We put that out there to make a firm statement that we were going to replace the Defender, and at the time had about six or seven different concepts we were looking at,” said Mr Edwards.

“We absolutely knew that wasn’t going to be where we were going, but there were some benefits, some bits of that design we quite liked, and actually in some markets it was very well received. In some others, less well received.” In an interview last year, Mr McGovern joked: “When we researched (reaction to the DC100), 90 per cent was very favourable towards the design, eight per cent indifferent and two per cent wanted to kill me apparently”.

It is thought that the latest plans for the new Defender are to create a more premium-level product and potentially build it on a version of JLR’s new, all-aluminium architecture called PLA.

Aluminium alloy was used in the original 1498 version’s panels because of the lack of steel in post-War Britain, but modern JLR products such as the Range Rover use the material on the platform as well, in order to shave kilos and help lower emissions.

Another alternative could be to top-hat a modified version of the existing, off-road friendly separate-chassis architecture from the Discovery with a new shell.

Land Rover has previously said there was even scope to run the existing model alongside in developing markets with less stringent safety and environmental requirements.

Either way, the car will need to appeal to a wider audience than its current, ageing traditionalists, if the company wants to achieve its goal or more than tripling global annual sales.

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