Land Rover appears to be treating billionaire Jim Ratcliffe’s plans to build a new British 4x4 in the image of the legendary Defender as an existential threat to the very identity of its brand. JLR's latest move? A series of trademark applications over the course of the last year or so, seeking to claim intellectual property protections on the physical shape of the classic Land Rover Series and Defender body. According to sources in the UK automotive news, Ratcliffe’s company; Ineos, has reportedly opposed all of the applications.
In a statement, JLR said, “Defender will always be instantly recognizable as a Land Rover the world over. The Defender remains a key part of our current future product strategy. We will monitor closely any actions in relation to our proprietary rights in Defender and will comment when appropriate.”
To recap, Ratcliffe, a huge fan of the Land Rover marque and the Defender, in particular, offered to pay JLR for the rights to keep building Defenders himself. Land Rover flatly rejected the offer and made sure to remind him that Defender was a trademarked name and that no one but Land Rover would ever be able to use it.
Ratcliffe’s response was that he would fund his own company and build his own British 4x4, a "spiritual successor" to the original Land Rover. He moved relatively quickly, building a leadership team for the company and offering up press releases and descriptions of what people can expect to see and when. Recently the vehicle was named Projekt Grenadier, after a pub in London, and now it even has its own website.
Ratcliffe’s plan seems solid enough on its own, and Land Rover owns the rights to their products and should be allowed to protect them. I am eagerly looking forward to seeing what kind of design the Ineos team comes up with, whether it's a retro-wagon a la the FJ Cruiser and new Ford Bronco, or a truly simple and utilitarian vehicle that offers real functionality across a wide variety of markets. The company plans to bring the new vehicle to market in 2020.
The demise of Defender is rare in the sense that the vehicles have since boomed in popularity. Land Rover had ample opportunity to come up with a replacement, AND, they actually plan to bring the model back within a few years. One LR employee spoke with us on the topic and hinted that there were strong internal divisions over where the new Defender would fit into the lineup, and whether it would look like the original Defender, or take its cues from the McGovern-era designs that make up the current Land Rover style.
One might think that Land Rover perhaps doth protest too much, at least where the Projekt Grenadier is concerned. Meanwhile, Ratcliffe does not seem at all deterred by Land Rover’s response, and by the end of the year, he plans to hire 200 engineers. He also thinks the vehicle can be profitable within three years. That would require selling roughly 25,000 vehicles a year for around $47,000 each. “You don’t spend $811 million on a nostalgic dalliance,” he said. We'll just have to wait and see.
SIGN UP for Exclusive Offers & Latest Deals
Please wait while we calculate your shipping cost.....