RAC Cars News


The Defender returns - but not as a Land Rover...

By raccars Published

Land Rover

Chemical corporation Ineos plans to bring back the much missed Land Rover Defender.

According to Ineos, the company had planned to work with Jaguar Land Rover to rebuild the iconic off-roader for the US and African markets, but JLR shut that idea down definitively and is clinging on to its ownership of the 4x4. However it seems that Ineos has decided to develop its own version of the iconic off roader, very much based upon the Land Rover Defender but wearing an all-new name and badge.

Borrowing a power train

Ineos is looking into whether there is a commercial case for a Defender replica at the moment. If it decides to go ahead, the new car is likely to use another company's chassis and power train. Ineos is a huge multinational but lacks automotive experience, and is sensible enough to see that a partnership with another brand is the best way into such a competitive industry. Nonetheless Ineos is convinced that there is demand, especially in Africa, for a new, mechanically up-to-date Defender. It even plans to improve upon the original's reliability record. Apparently the Defender's age at 68 years means that there shouldn't be too many copyright issues standing in the way of this project.

Using tried and tested hardware would help to cut development costs for a vehicle which is expected to be able to cope with the toughest environments. For the same reason, Ineos is discounting the possibility of an electric power train and is likely to stick to diesel. The company has confirmed that the Ford-sourced diesel unit used by the old Defender is not part of the plan.

Opening up the US and Africa

The new car would be aimed at the US and African markets and would require the construction of a new manufacturing plant if Ineos decides to put it into production once the results of the feasibility study are received. The head of Ineos is working on an annual production capacity of 20,000 units and has forecast a £250 million build cost for the facility. The company is planning to locate the plant in the north of England, and ideally close to a port. Once the green light is given, it's likely to take another two to three years for the car to reach the market.

A modern re-imagining of the old Defender

Pricing for the Defender replica is expected to more or less match the original's in order to retain the agricultural market with which the 4x4 was always so popular. However Ineos is planning to upgrade the car in various areas to make it more comfortable, driveable, more efficient and, of course, compliant with modern safety and environmental restrictions.

The old Defender was discontinued essentially because Land Rover claimed that the amount of re-engineering necessary to make the 4x4 fit modern legislation, such as airbags and CO2 emissions limits, would have been uneconomical. Ineos also plans to offer the sort of reliability people are used to from the likes of the Toyota Land Cruiser, pointing out that despite its place in many hearts, the Defender was not always the most dependable of vehicles.Rover

Nothing to do with Land

The feasibility study will look not only at building a commercial case for bringing back a new and improved Defender-esque model, but also at possible disputes over intellectual property. After that development would start more or less from scratch. The idea is to capture the 'essence' of the Defender, but the new vehicle will not be related to the old car in any definable way. JLR is clearly determined not to allow the use of its badge or brand.

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