Gerry McGovern is rather pleased with himself. He leans back with confidence as he discusses his latest creation, the highly-anticipated reborn Land Rover Defender.
“This is a hero vehicle, a freaking hero vehicle. We don’t want to water it down,” he tells Australian media with glee.
The Land Rover Design boss is prepared when questions inevitably turns to public perception of the new product, and he quickly rattles off a response that is almost word-for-word from a press release.
“Everyone has got a view of what it should be. But I think it is a no-nonsense design. It recognises its past, but isn’t harnessed by it,” he says.
There is a briefest of pauses before he begins to reveal what he really thinks.
Frankfurt 2019: 2020 Defender: this is it
“The reality is, as good as the Defender was and people fell in love with it all over the world, it was designed for a different time,” he adds. “The world has changed massively since then, and this vehicle had to change as it had to address all the hygiene factors that the other couldn’t.
“That is partly why the old [Defender] had to stop. Partly because of emissions, comfort, safety, all those things had to be addressed. The Defender was appropriate for its time.”
When working on a nameplate as significant, and as loved, as the Land Rover Defender, McGovern was well aware that his work would suffer intense scrutiny from traditionalists. But, he doesn’t seem bothered by the opinion of these dyed-in-the-wool types.
“There are always going to be people that aren’t happy,” he says. “With the greatest respect, I am a professional designer, and I am designing this thing for a new generation.
“I hope the traditionalists will come with us, but if they don’t, that is for them.
“If you become preoccupied with making everybody happy, you will fail.
“We hear a lot about how much people love the original Defender, you don’t hear very much about the people that don’t like it, because they don’t comment on it, they are not interested, and that is what you have to think about.”
McGovern is confident that in the transition from a body-on-frame to monocoque chassis, and solid axles to independent suspension, the Defender’s capable character hasn’t been lost.
“This can reach from being a hardcore, hard-nosed, kick the shit out of you product, to a real lifestyle product as well,” he says.