Land Rover is considering the business case to produce a Defender ute, but it likely won’t be built on the same platform as the wagon. Instead, the British company might partner up with an established dual-cab ute maker.
Due next year, the new Defender’s move to a monocoque chassis - based largely on the new Discovery platform - will be both a blessing and potential burden for the British marque; a blessing in the new sales it will attract over the old rugged model, but a burden in not being able to support a one-tonne ute bodystyle.
That could, however, be overcome by way of a partnership with another manufacturer. Much how Jaguar Land Rover has partnered with BMW to produce its new electric drive EV platform.
Speaking to Wheels this week at the launch of the V8-powered F-Pace SUV in Australia, managing director of the local arm, Mark Cameron, said that while there was no plan for a Defender ute now, that didn’t rule out a Land Rover-badged dual-cab coming in the future.
“We are not going to have that [ute] bodystyle for us unfortunately in Australia,” he told us, adding, “At the moment there is no plan globally, it’s not just an Australian thing.”
But Cameron is keen on landing a ute in Australia, tapping into our huge appetite for dual-cab utes, dominated by the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton.
“I think if we had a Defender Land Rover badged, competitively positioned pick-up in Australia it would do really well. But these things are always driven by global business cases, there needs to be sufficient volume. There are other markets that would do quite well with that product, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, but we have got to make sure that we can deliver the car that we have designed and then possible further expansions.
“What I am saying to head office is that it would be a fantastic product in Australia, as the top three selling cars here are pick-ups.”
When questioned further if head office was paying attention to the potential gold mine that is the Australian ute market - and also retaining the ute bodystyle the Defender enjoyed in the previous-generation's 67-years of service - Cameron said that indeed a ute was in consideration.
“It is interesting at the moment, it is being considered, definitely.”
But the Defender's new monocoque chassis won’t be a match for tough ladder-frame utes in the segment. Instead, we might see JLR partner with another manufacturer to produce a dual-cab, diesel-powered ute - think Volskwagen and Ford partnering up, or Mazda and Isuzu on their next-gen trucks.
“When you look at the demands on car companies at the moment in terms of R&D and development - as I said earlier, it’s not just proliferation of body styles, it’s how do we manage the powertrain development requirements. That’s why we partnered with BMW [for the electric drive unit] because we can’t do this all on our own. If we are still committed to developing the combustion engine and electrification and autonomous driving plus proliferation of bodystyles and platforms, you have to get to the point where you say, ‘Actually, this is what we can do day-to-day’.”
That’s huge news for Defender and dual-cab ute fans alike. While the new wagon model will be softer than before, there’s potential for hard-core dual-cab ute to take on the establishment, and break into a whole new market.