Land Rover’s current Defender SUV
is the stuff of legend. The spiritual descendent of the original utilitarian-and-mechanically-bulletproof Land Rover, the Defender has a reputation for being one of the most capable off-road vehicles in the world.
What makes the Defender great off-road impacts its appeal on-road, however. Its no-nonsense design, Spartan interior and unpleasant on-pavement ride have limited sales of the current Defender model, which will be phased out of production by 2015 or so.
The replacement for the Defender will be based on the DC100 and DC 100 Sport concepts
originally shown by Land Rover at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show
. Where the current Defender enjoys only niche sales, Land Rover sees the next generation Defender as a potential volume leader for the company.
As Land Rover head John Edwards explained to Inside Line
, changing the Defender from a limited-appeal SUV to a mainstream product requires creating a range of new-Defender based vehicles that have both broad appeal and a lower price tag than current Land Rover offerings.
How low? Low enough to target the Toyota Hilux pickup, sold in the United States as the Toyota Tacoma, for dominance in the growing leisure market. Worldwide, Toyota moved some 549,000 pickups last year, and Land Rover would be happy with even a portion of that volume.
Expect the next Defender to carry a price tag between $30,000 and $40,000, and expect the United States to factor heavily into Land Rover’s sales projections
. We say that’s a good thing, since the current Defender was pulled from the U.S. market for lack of airbags and door beams at the end of the 1997 model year.