2015 marks the last year of the iconic Land Rover Defender as many off-roaders know and love it. But rumors have begun circulating that the next model will be released shortly after, and that the vehicle will be hitting the American market as a compact, competent off-road vehicle like the Jeep Wrangler.
Autocar has reported that the design of Land Rover’s replacement has been finalized, but went on to say the vehicle will bear no resemblance to the DC100 concept many thought would be the next Defender when it was introduced in 2011. Apparently Land Rover executives decided the concept’s look wasn’t original enough.
The only clues we have to the vehicle’s purpose and possible styling is a statement from Jaguar/Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth almost two years ago. Then, he told Automotive News that Land Rover “will make sure [the next Defender] will be a vehicle for the US,” and that it would be billed as the company’s “entry-level” vehicle.
Tata Motors (Jaguar/Land Rover owner) Chairman Ratan Tata went on to say Land Rover would be “less of a niche player in the coming years as new vehicles roll out.”
Land Rover has already expanded their luxury SUV offerings and lowered the cost of entry with the Range Rover Evoque. The company has also made clear they’re establishing the new Discovery Sport as their mid-range option; it seems reasonable to believe the next Defender, whatever name or body cladding it ships out with, will be their “entry-level” vehicle that will carry the brand’s “rugged” cache.
If that’s the case, they’re aiming squarely at the Jeep Wrangler which has dominated the small, capable, convertible 4×4 market in America since pretty much forever. That market’s been good to Chrysler too; Jeep sold 16,388 Wranglers in July for a total of over 100,000 units in the first seven months of the year.
Sources are saying Land Rover only needs to sell 50,000 of their next Defender to make it profitable.
Land Rover’s looking at a golden opportunity to take a bite out of the Wrangler’s dominance, establish their brand for a whole new set of 4×4 enthusiasts, and bring a little diversity to the market. If Land Rover’s really brave, they’ll offer a pickup truck variant with great off-road ability and win the hearts of customers who have been begging Chrysler for a Jeep pickup which is currently only being provided by the aftermarket.
This will be one to watch as 2015 gets closer.
Image: Land Rover