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Land Rover Defender Set to Return to North America by 2020

January 8, 2019

Land Rover Defender Set to Return to North America by 2020

A long-time dream of Land Rover fans is about to come true. North American dealers have recently announced that they will once again be selling the Jaguar Land Rover Defender off-road vehicle. The Defender was first released in the 1950s and continued through the early ‘70s, when production was ceased until the ‘90s, after which time it stopped altogether.

The last Defenders came to the U.S. in 1997 and did not meet U.S. safety standards for imported vehicles. As a result, Land Rover could only import 500 per year. However, thousands of Defenders over 25 years of age have been privately imported from other countries by buyers and sold for prices up to $100,000. Once a vehicle has reached 25 years from the date of manufacture, it can be imported and registered in most states and is exempted from emissions and crash safety rules.

Jaguar Land Rover began testing the newly designed Defender in some of the harshest placed around the world. In North America, this might include northern Canada and Death Valley, California. The vehicle is set to be released in late 2019 as a 2020 model.

The new version will be completely redesigned and will have no parts in common with previous versions. It is as of yet unclear whether the 2020 version will be a uni-body or body-on-frame configuration. However, it is known that the new Defender will be manufactured in the same plant as the new Land Rover Discovery and will most likely share parts and/or platforms.

Jaguar Land Rover officials made it clear that the new Defender would be “the most capable Land Rover vehicle ever” and will have the ability to operate in temperatures ranging from 40 below to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The vehicle will also be designed to operate both on- and off-road at altitudes greater than 13,000 feet above sea level.

Although officials have not said much about the new design, several spy photos seem to point to options between several body styles. One style would be similar to a Wrangler with two doors and a convertible roof. Other photos feature a longer version with four doors and camouflage paint being tested in off-road conditions. Some of the first versions of the Defender in 1948 featured similar body types including a two-door convertible, a four-door safari wagon and a pickup truck. It is expected that some version of the new model will compete with other makes including the Toyota Land Cruiser and the Ford Bronco.

Excitement about the pending release of the new Defender is palpable, with some dealers already accepting orders for the new model. Classic versions are expected to become a valuable collector’s item.

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