Last week, we reported that a wealthy British businessman named Jim Ratcliffe was talking with top Jaguar – Land Rover (JLR) executives about resurrecting the Defender. At the time, we cautiously noted that we were taking the report with a grain of salt because neither Ratcliffe nor JLR had commented on it.
A lot has changed in the past few days. First, JLR bluntly affirmed that the resurrection isn’t happening, and that the Defender (which is referred to as the last-gen model by the company) will remain in the history book.
“There is no way this is happening. We’re not going to let anyone build our Defender,” said a company spokesman in an interview with British magazine Autocar.
That should be the end of it, but the rumors persist, and Ratcliffe maintains that a born-again Defender could happen. Ineos, Ratcliffe’s successful chemical company, is currently carrying out a feasibility study to find out whether bringing back the Defender makes sense from a financial standpoint. If the project gets the green light, it will likely spawn a vehicle that will be heavily inspired by — or at least similar to — the Defender but not identical. Ratcliffe has evidently given this plan quite a bit of thought as he recently pointed out that there are only “minimal copyright issues” with re-launching the Defender. Although vague, the statement suggests he doesn’t necessarily need JLR’s blessing to move forward with the project.
Like we mentioned last week, the resurrected Defender will need a new engine and a new name regardless of whether or not the project is backed by JLR. It’s too early to tell what Ratcliffe will fit in the off-roader’s engine bay, but Autocar reports he’s benchmarking the Toyota Land Cruiser in terms of reliability.
The results of the feasibility study will be published in December. If all goes as planned, Ineos will build a £250 million ($330 million / €298 million) factory in the north of England capable of cranking out about 20,000 units annually. It will cost about the same as the last Defender, and its main markets will be Africa, the United States, and of course England.
Stay tuned, we’ll bring you more on this developing story as soon as new information becomes available.