Automotive

Published on November 27th, 2015 | by Subhash Nair

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Why Land Rover Have Decided to Stop Production of the Defender

Jaguar Land Rover will end production of the iconic Land Rover Defender early next year. The utilitarian workhorse, loved by the British royal family and farmers alike, has remained virtually unchanged during almost seven decades of production. The original design was so simple it was originally sketched in beach sand.

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Slabs of aluminum. A windshield with virtually no tilt. A roof rack made to hold steamer trunks or lion carcasses. A spare tire hanging off the back door. That uncompromising approach has delighted customers from Winston Churchill to Queen Elizabeth II. The Defender has shuttled soldiers in the Korean War, Red Cross volunteers in crisis zones around the world and Lara Croft in the movie Tomb Raider.

In January, its run will end, and the company hasn’t said when there will be a replacement. The 23,100 pound ($35,100) car synonymous with country living has become outdated. Its raw metal surfaces are at odds with pedestrian safety standards. Its carbon-dioxide emissions are twice the European fleet standard, and it has no touchscreens, mobile connectivity, airbags or cordless phone charging.

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Land Rover is losing its flagship because the brand relied too long on rural estate owners, ignoring the rise of soccer moms and urban adventurers. Its modest price tag meant modernizing the Defender made little sense, leaving it with just its authenticity as a selling point.

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By contrast, the Jeep Wrangler, a descendant of the World War II military vehicle, has been kept current with electronic stability control and Bluetooth connectivity. A successful relaunch of the Defender could follow the track plowed by Mini. Since being reborn under BMW Group, the offbeat British car has grown into a global brand that includes an SUV variant and sells from Birmingham to Beijing. But the Defender’s association with bone-jarring off-roading may make it more of a struggle to re-establish, and Land Rover already thoroughly covers the upscale SUV segment from the compact Evoque to the top-of-the-line Range Rover.

2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition

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The Defender’s demise comes as global demand for SUVs is set to soar 37 percent to nearly 26 million cars in 2018, according to researcher IHS Automotive. Jaguar Land Rover needs a bigger piece of that pie after reporting a 92 million pound loss for the second quarter. Its answer has been Jaguar’s first-ever crossover and the entry-level Land Rover Discovery Sport, at 30,695 pounds.

Scottish Hills Rally. 22nd - 23rd November 2014. Dumfries, Scotland. Photo: Drew Gibson.

Before the Defender ceases production, Land Rover will sell about 20,000 this year, IHS estimates, down from a peak of about 56,000 in the 1970s. Its total 68-year production run will be more than 2 million cars.

 

 


About the Author

Written work on dsf.my. @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.



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