Jaguar Land Rover will stop making the current Defender line-up at the end of 2015, part of a restructuring that includes rebranding the next-generation Freelander as a ‘baby’ Discovery.
Details of the smaller Discovery range are expected to emerge at the Geneva motor show in March to coincide with the Discovery’s 25th birthday. The actual production model is likely to be unveiled at the Paris show in September.
The new plan slots Land Rover’s product line-up into three categories: ‘luxury’ Range Rover (including Evoque); ‘leisure’ Discovery; and ‘dual purpose’ Defender family.
The luxury division gets two newcomers next month with the addition of the ritzy Ultimate and long-wheelbase variants. The Ultimate will be unveiled at the Dubai motor show and the long-wheelbase at Los Angeles.
The baby Discovery will resemble its bigger parent, with slab-sided proportions, roof rails and chunky underbody protection. The styling helps distance it from the more stylised Evoque.
The baby’s bodywork, interior, engines and badge will be new, but the underpinnings will be carried over from the current Freelander.
JLR hasn’t confirmed the new model, although a spokesman said: “A new replacement vehicle will join the Land Rover model range, but we have not yet announced the name nor any details of the new product.”
The spokesman added: “Production of Defender in its current format will stop at the end of 2015. We are looking at what the options are going forward.”
One of those options is the DC 100, a concept first seen at the Frankfurt show in 2011. It is likely to be among a new small ‘family’ of Defenders, including a sporty beach-buggy style.
John Edwards, the head of JLR’s new individual products division, said: “We are determined that the new Defender will be true to its heritage, while meeting the requirements of a changing global market.”
The original Land Rover started life as a squiggle in the sand after World War II when Rover director Maurice Wilks sketched out on a beach in Wales a vehicle he needed to replace the American army surplus Jeep he used in the family farm.
The Land Rover was launched at the 1948 Amsterdam motor show, made largely of aircraft aluminium because of post-war rationing and a shortage of steel. The original sage-green paint was acquired from a fighter plane factory.
The first pre-production model was called ‘Huey’ after its registration number HUE 166. It is fully working and on display at Britain’s Heritage Motor Museum.
Land Rover says around 75 per cent of the 2 million Defenders built since 1948 are still in regular use. It is understood New Zealand got its first in 1949-50.
• See spy video of the new ‘Baby’ Discovery testing in Germany (above).