On July 11th 2016, The UK’s Sunday Times reported that Land Rover was in talks with billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, who was hoping to finance a resurrection of the Defender. There was much speculation in the media over how the scheme would be carried out. Ratcliffe is the owner of a UK chemical company called Ineos, with a net worth of about $4.15 billion. Automotive blogs and web forums were alive with hope that it was true. A week later, reports came in that word from JLR was, “No-go.”
A spokesperson from the company says that "There is no way this is happening. We're not going to let anyone build our Defender." The company also issued an official statement. "We can confirm there are no plans to restart production of the previous generation Defender. Defender will always be Land Rover's icon. Jaguar Land Rover has stated its intention to continue the Defender lineage with an all-new model. The Defender remains a key part of our future product strategy, and the development of the next generation model remains on track."
Now, there is a new twist to the tale. Apparently, the upstart Ratcliffe thinks he may not need Land Rover's approval to build something that simply looks and drives a lot like the Defender.
Ineos is now carrying out a feasibility study to find out whether the idea works from a financial perspective. A non-approved Defender look-alike would, at a minimum, need a new name and a new powerplant. Ratcliffe indicates that there are only "minimal copyright issues" to be overcome.
But his plans go beyond the drivetrain and outer skin of the vehicle. He wants to engineer a comprehensive set of improvements that will allow the ersatz Defender to outperform its original ancestor in terms of performance and reliability, and to meet safety and environmental standards for the UK, EU, and even the USA.
"I think the Defender can be upgraded to be the world's best and most rugged off-roader," said Ratcliffe in an interview with British magazine Autocar.
The feasibility study is expected to conclude in December, and the results will inform Ineos Executives’ decision on whether or not to move forward. If they do, the plan includes a £250 million factory to be built in the north of England. Production would start at approximately 20,000 trucks a year.
So far there has been no comment from Land Rover on this latest development.
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