It is indeed a sad day as we learn of Land Rover’s plans to end production of the iconic but barely road-worthy Defender.
Automotive News reported that recent sales stats of this lovable truck are in a tailspin during its last years on the market before saying ‘bye bye’ for 2015.
U.S. federal safety, emissions and import duties on small trucks keep the go-anywhere vehicle from roaming our shores with its lack of compliance to such thing as crumple zones and airbags. The one Defender we did get is long gone even in England: the V-8 automatic convertible two-door. Almost all green and very charming, these were the rich-guy Wrangler Jeep of the 1990s.
In the markets where it is sold outside the UK, like continental Europe, 50 years of history is almost a negative feature versus ultramodern crossovers. The Defender’s main problem is that it drives like a ’lorrie’ and is more uncomfortable and thirsty with diesel than one too.
Europeans have simply lost interest in the Defender, with Land Rover selling a mere 561 units in the first eight months of 2013, according to JATO Dynamics.
The historic SUV first saw production in 1983 and was sold within the US in very limited numbers. It was built on both a 90-inch or 110-inch wheelbase and featured a variety of different powerplants - both gasoline and diesel – and body configurations.
The Defender’s extreme prowess off road and its rarity have earned it a cult following among enthusiasts. Such conditions have kept values for Defenders rather elevated for those in the US – even causing some to enter the country via the black market and away from Uncle Sam’s watchful regulatory eye.
However, there may be a silver lining in losing the Defender. A replacement for the hard-hitting rover is likely in the works and would be built well within the safety standards of governments world-wide and feature amenities buyers no longer consider optional. Power steering, a suspension that absorbs bumps and strong A/C are all features the Defender lacks.
Much of JLR’s cash is tied up trying to resuscitate Jaguar, so the Defender is taking a back seat in the new world of Euro6 and Cafe fuel standards.
"The Defender replacement remains far from ready due to a lack of volume and weak business case," analyst Max Warburton with Bernstein Research wrote in a recent report on Jaguar Land Rover.
Land Rover did show the DC100 concept at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show, but according to Warburton, the project has since been scrubbed.
He says Land Rover is currently mulling over an aluminum-bodied vehicle that would employ the current Range Rover’s underpinnings as a possible Defender replacement.
Click past the jump to read more about the 2014 Land Rover Defender.