Land Rover is the latest manufacturer pondering the balance of ruggedness and style needed in today's sport-utility market. Creating a replacement for its Defender will be one of Land Rover's first new programs under Ford Motor Co. ownership.
Design boss Geoff Upex's staff has had drawings for the Defender's replacement, code-named L50, ready for some time, but uncertainty about Land Rover's future under BMW sidelined the designs. Bob Dover, who recently left Aston Martin to become Land Rover's chairman, says Defender is a legend in the 4x4 business. 'For many people in the developing world, it is the first vehicle they see. But we need to do more to get at the more fashionable lifestyle market,' he says.
Possible designs include a plan to split the Defender model in two versions: one with off-road capability explorers require; the other a lifestyle truck with moderate off-road utility and a luxurious cabin. Still, a lifestyle Defender will keep its rugged looks. Says Upex: 'It's a piece of product engineering, not design. The defender looks like what it does, and we have to be very careful not to style it.'