One of Land Rover's oldest customers, the British Army, is defecting. The Army ordered its first 50 Land Rovers 55 years ago, but is now conducting trials to replace 10,000 Defenders in service.
The problem: the current Defender needs more armor to protect troops during patrol work in war zones such as Iraq. But that would cut payload. In addition, the next Defender, due in 2007, will be based on the Discovery 3 with monocoque construction, which is useless for military purposes.
DaimlerChrysler heads the list to take over Land Rover's UK military role with its Mercedes-Benz G class, the Unimog, the Dodge Ram and the Jeep Wrangler. Ford's F-350 pickup and Iveco are also competing.
But Land Rover will not suffer much. The last big army order was for 8,000 units in 1995, and annual Defender production exceeds 28,000.