What to do with the Land Rover Defender? The company is considering how to shape a successor to the hallowed model, but new reports say the company could simply elect for the nuclear option: kill it once and for all.
As we’ve previously reported, the Defender, largely unchanged since 1983 and similar to Land Rover models dating back nearly fifty years, needs to be overhauled by 2016 or else it no longer can be sold in Europe. As emissions, fuel economy, and crash regulations continue to grow increasingly stringent, it’s growing increasingly difficult for the current design increasingly difficult for the aging truck to pass muster and be sold as a consumer vehicle. In fact, the model was dropped from Land Rover’s U.S. lineup after 1997 for the sheer fact it didn’t sport airbags.
Last we heard, Land Rover was considering one of two options: either update the current Defender’s architecture with modern safety and emissions equipment, or crafting a new platform that shares key components with the likes of the LR2 and other Jaguar/Land Rover offerings. Now there’s another course of action: Colin Green, the managing director of Land Rover’s U.K. operations, tells AutoExpress there’s a chance the model could be killed altogether.
“Another option…is that we abandon that section of the market,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s our least preferred choice, because we have serviced that customer base for a long time, but there’s no point in servicing the customer and not the business. We have to make money and all three options are on the table.”
Brand purists and off-road freaks are likely reaching for their blood pressure medication as we speak, but we understand where Green’s coming from. The Defender is an institutional icon for the brand, one that abides to the original Land Rover principles and design more than any other Land Rover product. But does it fit with Land Rover’s modern personality, which is hinged on packaging advanced design, premium amenities, and stout off-road chops?
Reinventing the Defender much like filming a re-make of a vintage cult classic film. You can craft it so it appeals to a wider section of today’s customer base, but the niche group of individuals who adored the original will never stop voicing outrage. Do it wrong, and both a prestigious nameplate and a brand’s image could be sullied in a heartbeat. Green seems to understand this, telling AutoExpress “If we get this wrong, we’re messing up one of the industry’s biggest icons. In that sense, it’s a tremendous responsibility.”
Would we like to see the Defender die? Of course not — but we wouldn’t like to see the nameplate and history watered down, either. What should Land Rover do? Should it continue to crank out a rugged, Spartan off-roader in keeping with the Defender principles? Should it attempt to inject some revolution in a product that’s long been the poster child of evolution? Or should the company not even bother, and update the vehicle for the few commercial clients, military buyers, and off-road enthusiasts who truly want such a beast? Send your thoughts in the comments section below.