With the launch of the new Defender coming some time in the next few months, the automotive press is soon to be without a story they’ve been thriving on for two decades. Fortunately, Solihull seems to be helping them out, and three interesting stories crossed the transom recently about future developments to show up in the next few years.
Though the new Defender has yet to be unveiled (though it may be sooner than we’d think, if we read between the lines right, it has always been implied that the new truck will be offered in several body styles and wheelbases, just as the old one was. There have been rumors of a pickup truck version, possibly a 2-door, to compete with the rest-of-world Mercedes X-Class and Volkswagen Amarok.
Land Rover has made it clear that the new Defender is a global vehicle (and further said that “the United States is on the globe” when asked if it’d be coming here), but if the pickup is going to be global too, there’s one issue bringing it here: the Chicken Tax, a 25% tariff on light trucks imported from overseas, an odd legacy of a 1960s trade war over chickens with France and West Germany. There have been rumblings about a Jaguar Land Rover factory opening up in the next few years, however, in the United States (especially North Carolina) or Mexico, which would likely bypass the tax either via domestic production or some technicality of NAFTA.
With the Defender line almost relaunched, there are rumblings about another nameplate coming back: Freelander. After almost 20 years in Europe (and significantly fewer in the US before being renamed LR2), the Freelander name was retired in 2014 with the introduction of the replacement Discovery Sport.
However, a new competition is brewing in the SUV world, the small luxury crossovers, and Land Rover is finding themselves behind in a thriving market dominated by the Mercedes GLA, BMW X2, Audi A2, Lexus NX, and Infiniti QX30. These vehicles offer the styling and comfort of their larger siblings in a compact package and a more reasonable price, and with the smaller Evoque even outsizing them, Land Rover is missing a major opportunity in this market.
The new Freelander would fill this space, relaunching as a mini-SUV platform, which could be replicated among the product families – a sub-Evoque baby Range Rover, or a tiny Defender. The flexibility offers even more potential for growth in the market.
Finally, there are spy shots of the next-generation Evoque, pegged for 2020. The current Evoque came out in 2011, and though it’s had a facelift mid-cycle, it’s now the oldest Range Rover design. (It did set the tone for the current Range Rover design language, however, so it has remained plenty fresh.) While it’s still camouflaged up, there are suggestions that it’s going to take more cues from the Velar, as the full-size Range Rover and Range Rover Sport did during their 2018 refreshes.
Between the surprises Land Rover keeps pulling out of their sleeve for the 70th anniversary, the potential the new Defender platform offers, the new markets the company keeps reaching into, and the current products that are nearing the end of their design cycles, the rumors should keep churning fast for the near future.
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