LAND Rover’s 2019 Defender pick-up is likely to ditch a larger chassis for a mid-sized, one-tonne design.
This will put it smack-bang in the hot-selling 4x4 ute segment, along with the big-selling Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger, as well as the new-to-the-scene Mercedes-Benz X-Class and Jeep Wrangler pick-up.
The launch of the new Land Rover Discovery heralds the first time in the brand’s 69 year history that all of its vehicles will ride on aluminium monocoque chassis, and last year the brand confirmed the next Defender will follow suit.
This got us wondering about how a new Defender would be as versatile as it was on a separate chassis. And how, for example, would you develop one or two different ute variants off the new platform.
It stands to reason that the most likely result will be a mid-sized ute to compete in the segment that’s dominated by the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger.
Land Rover has split its vehicles into three families that fall under the Range Rover, Discovery and (soon to come back) Defender nameplates. Range Rover has three (soon to be four) models under its luxury-focused brand, with the Rangie, Range Rover Sport, Evoque and the just-revealed Velar.
The new Discovery joins the Discovery Sport in the family adventure-driven group; while the Defender should encompass a range of functional and capable wagons and utes as it has in the past.
So, we can see how the Defender wagon/wagons will develop on the aluminium monocoque derived from that under the Rangie and Disco, but what about the ute? It needs a chassis right?
There has been a lot of talk from JLR about all-new models needing to earn their keep, and that the company can’t afford low volume or polarising vehicles that don’t carry their weight. The Discovery is an example of this, as its fresh design is aimed to attract a wider audience than the controversial D3.
Mid-size, one-tonne 4x4 utes are one of the fastest growing segments in the world. That is exactly why Mercedes-Benz is jumping in to the category with its X-Class, and the German brand is tipping the segment could grow up to 30 per cent over the next 10 years. Worldwide growth is so strong that Benz is now reconsidering its plans not to take the X-Class to the USA where there has been resurgence in the class from the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Ford USA has also announced it will be taking the Ranger back to the US in 2019.
On the other hand, more truck-like, heavy-duty utes like the old Defender 110 and 130 variants are going nowhere. The Defender is gone, as is the GU Patrol, while the Land Cruiser 79 hangs on by a thread as Toyota does all it can to keep it ticking along. Passenger-friendly, mid-sized utes is where the market is at, and it makes sense that this is the future for the Defender if it is to succeed.
We can expect to see the new Defender towards the end of 2018, and it will be very interesting to check out Land Rover’s entry into this highly competitive segment.