Special Coverage

Greater L.A. Auto Show

LOS ANGELES – Jaguar Land Rover says its new Defender SUV will enter production in the 2015-2016 timeframe, and for the first time in 15 years the rugged off-road vehicle will be sold in the U.S.

John Edwards, Land Rover’s global brand director, says the luxury truck maker is unsure what form the production model will take. Land Rover shows two concept versions at the auto show here: the DC100 and DC100 Sport.

Both feature cues of the original Defender launched in 1948, but with a sleek, modern take.

The DC100 Sport is a convertible, with a spacious load area in place of rear seats. Both concepts are powered by a 2.0L 4-cyl. diesel engine, but the production powertrain has yet to be announced.

Edwards says the process of nailing down the design of the production version is under way. “Our designers build a number of different concepts, show them to our internal management, dealers, at events like this, and then clinic them,” he tells WardsAuto. “And eventually we fine-tune the design.”

Land Rover recently launched a midsize SUV, the Evoque, which is similar in size to both Defender concepts. But Edwards says there is little chance the new Defender will cannibalize Evoque sales, noting they are aimed toward different customers.

“One is an urban SUV; one is very much an ‘out there’ SUV,” he says. “They’re completely different animals.”

The auto maker currently offers the Defender in most global markets. But Edwards says due to its aging design, the vehicle did not pass U.S. safety regulations.

However, consumer clinics indicated a demand for the vehicle here. He does not offer volume projections, but expects the new Defender will be a hit.

“I personally believe and predict there will be strong demand for this car in the U.S., but we’ll find out soon,” he says.

Edwards believes the Jeep Wrangler would be the closest competitor, but only in terms of its off-road capability, not its luxury status.

Edwards also says there is no decision as to where the new Defender will be produced, but the new model will be sold in nearly all global markets.

bpope@wardsauto.com