Ineos has been given the green light to build an "uncompromising 4x4 off-roader."
It was a sad day last year when the Land Rover Defender went out of production after 68 years. That didn't stop billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, who founded chemical company Ineos, from trying to revive one of the most iconic off-roaders in the world. Jaguar Land Rover wasn't very keen on the idea initially, however: "We're not going to let anyone build our Defender," it said sternly at the time. But Ratcliffe persisted with his passion project, and has now revealed plans to build an "uncompromising 4x4 off-roader."
Think of this as a spiritual successor to the rugged Defender. "Many hundreds of millions" are being poured into the project, in what Ratcliffe believes is a gap in the market left by the discontinued Defender, with a replacement not due from Land Rover until 2019. The billionaire wants to make it clear that he has serious intentions about the project. He's currently seeking a production base in the UK or in Europe, and a new Ineos Automotive division will be set up to manufacture the off-roader. The company has started recruiting personnel, including a team of auto industry experts to develop and build the vehicle.
Ineos also completed an extensive six-month feasibility study into the project and concluded that it is viable, with plans to build the vehicle in the UK. The new off-roader won't be a direct replica of the Defender, so at least it shouldn't upset Jaguar Land Rover's lawyers. Instead, it will "reflect its philosophy" and appeal to fans of the original Defender, as well as agriculture and forestry workers, explorers and adventurers. The aim is to develop a pure off-roader that's a viable alternative to current "jelly-mould" SUVs, combining the renowned off-road ability of the original Defender with the build quality and reliability of a modern vehicle like the Toyota Land Cruiser.
"I am a great admirer of the old Land Rover Defender and have enormous respect for its off-road capability, and our new 4x4 has been inspired by it," said Radcliffe. "But whilst our off-roader might share its spirit, our new car will be a major improvement on previous models".