The redesigned 2020 Defender, unveiled this morning at the Frankfurt auto show and due to arrive at U.S. dealerships next spring, returns to the Land Rover lineup a range of rugged, no-compromise off-road vehicles that are closer to the brand's utilitarian roots.
Land Rover believes the reborn Defender — a nameplate that has not been offered to U.S. consumers since its 1997 model year — will help the automaker regain lost territory by reaching out to buyers who want a nonluxury, go-anywhere vehicle designed to take a pounding in extreme terrain.
Rover's U.S. dealers are counting on the same thing.
Most of the vehicles in their lineup retain Land Rover's off-road capability, but they tilt heavily toward luxury. But few Land Rover drivers veer far into the weeds in their Range Rovers, Velars and Discoveries. Land Rover officials hope the new Defender will give them reason to do it.
Land Rover originally was developed as little more than a farm implement. It could be hosed out and put away wet. For U.S. fans of the rugged Defender, it has been a 22-year wait for the new model that can be treated the same way now.
"There is a lot of pent-up demand for this car. We get inquiries every day," says Long Island Land Rover dealer Michael Levitan. His store displayed several Land Rover vehicles at the Hampton Classic, one of the nation's largest horse shows, and store staff there were quizzed repeatedly by customers about the Defender, Levitan said.