Right now there are two square and earnestly capable 4x4s on the U.S. market; the Jeep Wrangler (187,111 sales this year so far) and the Mercedes-Benz G-Class (3,075 sales). You might have guessed there’s a big price gap between them. But is there really enough gap in demand for another player?
Land Rover says they’re committed to reviving the Defender nameplate and selling the hell out of it, which leads me to believe they’re bringing it back to America when the new body style drops. As of now, most think that will be the 2019 model year.
So who’s going to buy it?
Most Jeep Wranglers seem to be on dealer lots for about $30,000, with the nicest ones wringing up at about $45,000. Owners fall into two categories; devout cultists who refuse to buy anything else and people who want a four-door convertible.
A new Mercedes G-Wagen is sold for at least $100,000, to people who either want to out-asshole their friends with Range Rovers or are Scott Brady.
Socially, the Defender does sort of sit between the two trucks other trucks we’re talking about here. Definitely flashier than a Jeep, but quirky enough to avoid the aggressive ostentatiousness of a G-Wagen. And there’s just something about Britishness that oozes charm to us simple Americans.
As for acceptance in the hardcore adventure community, the question is complicated. Land Rovers have made a lot of progress convincing the general pubic that their cars are reliable now, but Jeep, Ford, and Toyota have been dominantly represented at any gathering of off-roaders I’ve ever seen.
That said, folks who do wheel Rovers are as dedicated as the guards at Buckingham Palace.
So if Land Rover’s smart they’ll price the new Defender right between its inevitable rivals. Probably with at least two variants; a “basic” trim and a “luxury” one. This take’s hot, but I’m guessing we’d see MSRPs of $60,000 to $80,000 if the Defender really does come here in three or four years.
How many would Land Rover have to sell to make it worth their time? Well breaking that down would require a lot of information we don’t have access to. But the last time they brought the Defender badge around here, 1997, it’s said to have sold about 1,500 units out of a total-run (1993 to 1997) of less than 7,000 according to dear friend and Land Rover superfan Doug DeMuro.
Today of course you can barely buy one used for $50,000. Which is why I bought a Discovery instead. Hey, it had the same wheels!
Prevailing lore is that the Defender wasn’t pulled from the U.S. market because of poor profitability. Land Rover just didn’t want to bring the agricultural truck up to safety standards that got a bit stricter for the following year.
Given the current popularity of the Wrangler, the cockroach-like resilience of the G-Wagen and the popularity of SUVs in general I would think Land Rover could turn a tidy profit with a more mass-appeal-oriented iteration of their iconic rough-roader.
Will that still be the case in 2019 when (if) it finally gets here? I guess we’ll see. In the meantime, what do you think a new Defender’s chances would be in our market today? In four years?
Image via Land Rover
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