Does that mean a long-wheelbase Defender will go on sale?
For the past few generations, the Land Rover Defender was the brand’s halo car, the vehicle that tied the automaker’s history and its storied design with the best off-road capability that Land Rover was able to offer. But those roots have evolved to feature vehicular offspring that were different enough that the Defender was no longer a suitable halo car for Land Rover.
So went ahead and did it’s duty, putting the current Defender out of commission and getting to work building a new one from scratch. But the global auto market has changed quite a bit since the original Defender went on sale, with the balance of power shifting East as China has grown to become the world’s largest auto market.
But demand for Land Rovers in the West is still nothing to laugh about. So that gives Land Rover two choices. Either it builds a Defender that tries its best to cater to the individual demands of both markets, or it splits the Defender in two, building one version for each market. While it’s unclear which direction Land Rover will take, Automotive News Europe reports that the company is designing features that would optimize the Defender for the Chinese market, too.
During a recent presentation to investors, Jaguar Land Rover executives said they’d build the Defender with "China-specific features.” It’s unclear what that means exactly, but we can probably assume it means the Chinese Defender will feature a longer wheelbase and electrification.
The 2020 Defender, set to debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September and go on sale early next year, will be launched with regular internal combustion engines as well as mild-hybrid powertrains that rely on JLR’s Ingenium range of engines to help electric motors. A plug-in hybrid model is likely to be added to the range after its launch.
Land Rover has also said that it plans for the new Defender to cater to a large range of buyers by offering a "stretched range,” including cheaper versions designed for volume sales and more powerful and luxurious variants that will target upscale buyers. It will be interesting to see which strategy Land Rover takes to make the Defender appealing in both western and eastern markets, but only time will tell at this point.