The next new Land Rover Defender will come to the U.S. market--that is, when the replacement for the rugged, long-lived utility vehicle emerges from the development process.
That's the intention, at least. The Defender will also have to pass some significant hurdles before receiving final approval. it will have to meet rigid new safety and fuel economy requirements, while still making business sense as one of the smallest, and conversely most capable, off-roaders in the company's lineup.
The Defender hasn't been officially imported by Land Rover North America since the 1997 model year.
Jaguar and Land Rover are on a multi-billion-dollar product makeover that began with the 2011 Jaguar XJ and 2012 Range Rover Evoque, and continues with the 2013 Land Rover Range Rover and the upcoming 2014 Jaguar F-Type convertible sports car.
The Defender will be a part of a wave of new products laid out by Land Rover as a cohesive whole under its ownership by Tata Motors.
For the first time, "we know what we're going to be doing over the next five, six, seven years," says design director Gerry McGovern, who along with Jaguar Land Rover North America CEO Andy Goss, explained the company's future plans to The Car Connection in a briefing during the Paris show.
In large part, what Land Rover will be doing is to put more emphasis on the brand name itself. With the success of the 2012 Range Rover Evoque compact crossover and the coming 2013 Range Rover, the news as of late has mostly been focused on the premium end of the lineup.
And in the U.S., that aligns with the lion's share of Land Rover sales, which go to Range Rover-branded vehicles--the Evoque, the Range Rover Sport and the Range Rover. In other markets, the Land Rover brandmark has equal standing.
"It's the Patek Philippe," says McGovern.
The balance will shift in the next few years as more Land Rover vehicles are replaced and re-engineered. In the Land Rover scheme, the pillars to the brand are the Range Rover, the Discovery (sold as the LR4 in the U.S.), and the Defender. Given its prominent place on the Paris show floor, the Defender is a high priority.
"There will be a new Defender, and it will be tough as nails," McGovern confirms.
Not only that, it will be a global product, JLRNA's CEO Goss says, one engineered with U.S. sales in mind.
"That is our intention," he confirmed to The Car Connection.
The next Defender has been sketched out in future-car form as the DC100, a concept vehicle shown at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show. That concept bore a powertrain related to the Evoque's, only with plug-in hybrid technology; an eight-speed automatic and stop/start; four-wheel drive and adaptive GPS that predicts terrain-response data; sonar sensing for fording water; and deployable tires spikes, a James Bond-like touch.
The Bond films, in fact, were the chief reason for the Defender's showcase at the Paris show--even if it wasn't so much a product reveal as a foreshadowing. The current Defender will appear in the new Bond film due in the coming weeks. Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig, hits theaters on November 9. In the film, agent Eve (played by Naomie Harris) drives a Defender Double Cab Pickup in the opening scene before connecting with Craig and co-stars Dame Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, and Ralph Fiennes in the 23rd installment of the series.
The Defender isn't the only Land Rover in the works, though. New Range Rovers will also be in the offing: a replacement for the Range Rover Sport has been seen in development by MotorAuthority's spy photographers.
In general, though, Land Rover will see "a much different mix in the future, more of an even split," Goss says. "That's something that won't become clear until we have all those vehicles out there."
"We're on a journey," McGovern adds. "We've left the harbor."
This story originally appeared at The Car Connection