Land Rover backs down on Defender

STEPHEN OTTLEY
Last updated 14:13 12/12/2012
Land Rover DC100 concept, a modern interpretation of the Land Rover Defender, will debut at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show.
DUMPED: The Land Rover DC100 concept which the company has backed away from as a replacement for the iconic Defender.
Land Rover Defender 110 Station Wagon
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The DC100 Sport, a convertible version of the Land Rover Defender, shown at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show.
The DC100 Sport, a convertible version of the Land Rover Defender, shown at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show.

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Land Rover has gone back to the drawing board for its next-generation Defender after mixed reviews of its radical DC100 concept.

The brand's global PR manager, Dave Roynon, admits some people hated the DC100, launched in 2011, and says the new Defender won't look like it.

"We're doing lots of market research, we're doing lots of studies," Roynon says. "We did DC100 to see what the reception was ... It's a bit of a Marmite [England's answer to Vegemite] car, some people loved it, some people hated it. I loved it as a styling exercise, but is it something that would replace Defender? No."

Roynon says no details for the new Defender have been locked in – except the fact it must retain the current car's go-anywhere, hard-working reputation.

"The capability is almost a given," he says. "It has to be as capable, it has to be as robust, it has to go everywhere the existing Defender goes, it has to be as practical as the existing Defender.

"But then how do we then say, dial in the latest legislation requirements? How do we meet the safety requirements? How do we meet the fuel economy aspirations that the new world has?"

Roynon says it is still yet to be decided whether to build the next-generation Defender with a car-like monocoque chassis or a truck-style body-on-frame set-up (also known as a ladder-frame chassis).

The material the car will be built from is also undecided.

Land Rover is investing heavily in aluminium monocoque construction for its new Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Discovery models.

The current Defender uses aluminium panels on a steel chassis.

Roynon admits the company would consider making the Defender on unique body-on-frame underpinnings, despite the added cost and complexity, if that's what the market feedback demands.

"If the market requires it and that's what we have to do to meet their demands, then that's what we'll do," Roynon says.

"I would never say never to carrying on the existing type of platform, where you've got an aluminium body on a steel ladder frame. I don't think anything is out of the question."

Persisting with a body-on-frame construction would make it easier for the company to continue the wide range of Defender body options that include single cab, crew cab, dual cab, soft-top rear, commercial and military variants.

While some had hoped for an earlier arrival, the new Defender appears to be many years away, with Roynon declaring it a maximum of five years away from launch.

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Land Rover is targeting annual global sales of about 100,000 vehicles for the next generation Defender, up from about 20,000.

-Fairfax News Australia

- © Fairfax NZ News

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