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Concepts: (Defend)ing the faith

29 November 2011

The Land Rover DC100 might not appeal to the average Defender fan, but that hardly matters. From a business perspective, it is far more important that it appeal to the average crossover and SUV buyer, and in that respect it is sure to be a success

Land Rover’s DC100 concept vehicle has proven itself to be a very divisive SUV – and for good reason. It doesn’t offer much to tempt the hardcore Defender fan, so the fact that the DC100 is the heir apparent to Landy’s most iconic vehicle has understandably rubbed Defender enthusiasts the wrong way.

I think most would agree that the DC100 is a pretty cool vehicle – sort of a cross between a Disco and an Evoque. But the problem is, well, it is just not terribly Defender-like. Considering that it is replacing arguably the most iconic vehicle in the world (after all, the Defender has been around in one form or another for more than 60 years), it would have been nice if the DC100’s design at least tipped its hat in the Defender’s direction and acknowledged it in some way. Instead, we are left with a vehicle that has virtually no resemblance to the Defender. If you look at the FJ Cruiser, you immediately know what vehicle inspired its retro looks. Not so with the DC100.

If you’re browsing the Leisure Wheels website, you probably like to take overland trips and tackle the odd 4×4 trail, which means you’re exactly the sort of person who would be offended by the Defender’s replacement. Sadly, however, overland fans make up a very small percentage of the vehicle market. As you probably know, very few people actually take their vehicles off road, so they don’t need hardcore vehicles with steel bumpers and recovery points. They don’t even need a four-wheel-drive system. As long as a vehicle looks trendy and snazzy, they’re happy. And to these people, the DC100 would seem ideal – rugged and outdoorsy, but still cool and comfortable.

If you want to know why Land Rover is replacing the Defender with something like the DC100, here’s an explanation. Nissan sold 180 000 Jukes globally in 2010. How many Defenders did Land Rover sell? About 18 000.

For the Defender to survive, it needs to undergo a dramatic metamorphosis. Unfortunately, it needs to start resembling vehicles such as the Juke and Landy’s own Evoque. It needs to develop the sort of safety rating and CO2 emissions that will make it sellable in Europe and the US. It needs be fashionable. It needs to appeal to buyers in the Middle East and Asia.

Hence the birth of the DC100.

Luckily, Land Rover doesn’t want to alienate Defender fans too much or damage the brand’s off-road credibility, which means that the DC100 hasn’t been “softened” completely. It seems as if the vehicle will boast decent 4×4 ability, so it probably represents the best compromise off-road fans could have expected. It also appears as if the company is genuinely interested in feedback  from customers, so the DC100 that enters production in a few years might look very different from the current one.

And anyway, the old Defender might still be with us for a while. Autocar in the UK reported a while back that the 110 and 130 Defenders will stay in production even after the short-wheelbase replacement has been launched – at least until 2017, and possibly even beyond.

Mercedes-Benz originally designed the GL-Class to replace its unstoppable G-Class. In the end, it started producing the GL without taking the Gelandewagen off the market. Could the same thing happen with the Defender? I wouldn’t be surprised.

  • Marius Meyer

    The DC100 is a great idea but should be a new model range all together to fit between the Defender and Evoque. Land Rover can take some of their new found wealth (thanks Tata) to refine Defender in all aspects i.e. build quality, ride and handling. They even can try to improve on its ruggedness (if that is possible). Can’t wait for the DC100!

    By the way…don’t use Juke and Defender in the same sentence…..the one is a toy end the other hardcore.