For 68 years, the Land Rover Defender was the mainstay of off-roader vehicles. About two million Defenders were produced in the UK and the boxy, rugged car had a range of admirers — from everyday farmers to the Queen of England.
Then, last year, Land Rover stopped producing the “go-anywhere” 4X4, reportedly because the company was having trouble meeting safety and environmental regulations.
Now, a chemical company is hoping to fill the gap left behind by the Defender with a new no-frills, all-terrain vehicle.
According to a report in Bloomberg, Ineos Group Holdings, a Swiss chemical company, has completed a six-month feasibility study and reported that it has decided to go ahead with plans to develop a new SUV inspired by the Defender.
“We’re ramping up the team, ramping up the spend,” Tom Crotty, director for Ineos, said. “We’re going to be spending a significantly large amount of money as we go through the next 12 months with an aim to get the vehicle in production and to the market by 2020.”
Ineos was ranked as the sixth biggest chemical company in 2015, with chemical sales reaching about $28.5 million. Ineos specializes in chemical products for a range of markets including fuels and lubricants, packaging and food, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, textiles and more. The company also has plans to invest in shale gas exploration in the UK.
Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire chairman of Ineos, is also reportedly a big fan of the Defender.
“I am a great admirer of the old Land Rover Defender and have enormous respect for its off-road capability,” Ratcliffe said. “Our new 4x4 has been inspired by it. But while our off-roader might share its spirit, our new car will be a major improvement on previous models.”
The company also said that its new vehicle will reflect the Defender’s “philosophy” while providing a “step change improvement in build quality and reliability.”
But the company will face major technical and manufacturing challenges for the project. Ineos said it is recruiting a team of auto experts as the company figures out how it’s going to develop manufacturing space to build and test the vehicles. It plans to sell the vehicle globally and target traditional Defender buyers such as agriculture and forestry workers, and adventurous types.
Ineos plans to produce the car in Britain, which means it could also be subjected to new tariffs since the country has decided to withdrawal from the EU. But the company is nevertheless optimistic about its prospects entering the market.
“Prost-Brexit Britain is still going to be buying Mercedes, BMWs and Volkswagens just as hungry as they were in pre-Brexist Britain,” Crotty told Bloomberg.