LONDON -- Land Rover said it will end production of the iconic Defender, an SUV that remains popular with North American consumers years after sales were discontinued.
"The Defender will go out of production by the middle of the decade due to legislative reasons," a Land Rover spokesman told Automotive News Europe.
The spokesman declined to comment on the reasons.
Land Rover is developing a replacement vehicle for the Defender but the company did not disclose the name or any details of the new product.
Land Rover, then a division of British Leyland, sold the rugged, utilitarian Defender in the United States in the 1960s through 1974 in two versions, a stubby Jeep Wrangler-like off-roader built on an 88-inch wheelbase and a larger safari wagon that rode on a 110-inch wheelbase.
The company survived the collapse of BL and offered the same basic two versions of the Defender in the United States again in the mid-1990s.
The vehicle has developed a cult-like following in North America that has kept prices of used Defenders so high that many are imported, often illegally.
Land Rover had to discontinue Defender's U.S. sales because the vehicle no longer met federal safety regulations that required driver and passenger side air bags.
Land Rover also would not say when the replacement will go on sale.
An analyst at Bernstein Research believes a Defender replacement will not go on sale until 2019 at the earliest.
"The Defender replacement remains far from ready due to a lack of volume and weak business case," Bernstein analyst Max Warburton wrote in a recent report on Jaguar Land Rover.
Land Rover showed the DC100 concept at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show to preview a new Defender, but that steel-based vehicle has been cancelled, according to Warburton.
He said the brand is now looking at the possibility of a more expensive aluminum vehicle to sit on the current Range Rover platform.
The Defender was the first model built by Land Rover in 1948. Its rugged looks made it an iconic vehicle and almost 2 million units have been sold.
The Defender bolstered Land Rover's reputation as a rugged SUV brand but its sales are small. In the first eight months, just 561 Defenders were sold in Europe, according to JATO Dynamics.
Richard Truett contributed to this report.