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Ineos bids to plug Land Rover Defender gap

Chemical giant aims to launch 'uncompromising' 4x4

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British chemical giant Ineos plans to manufacture a 4×4 to fill the gap left by the demise of the Land Rover Defender.

According to the company, Jaguar Land Rover’s decision to stop making the iconic Defender leaves a market for an ‘uncompromising off-roader’ and it is prepared to invest ‘many hundreds of millions’ in creating such a vehicle, hopefully in the UK.

Described as one of the largest manufacturers in the world in its field, Ineos has been undertaking a six-month feasibility study before giving the go-ahead for what will be the company’s first vehicle.

The new, as yet unnamed 4×4 will both fill the gap in the market vacated by the Defender and ‘provide a step-change improvement in build quality and reliability.’

Traditional design

Industry sources suggest that the vehicle will be traditional in design – Ineos has firmly stated that it its new vehicle will offer a real and pure alternative to the current crop of standardised ‘jelly-mould’ SUVs. However its powertrains could include a hybrid or even full-electric option.

A global target market includes agriculture and forestry workers, explorers and adventurers as well as traditional Defender fans.

Land Rover Defender 01
The Ineos 4×4 will apparently be in the spirit of the Land Rover Defender, pictured here, but not a replica. Photo: Andrew Charman

The company’s former head of Engineering and Technology, Dirk Heilmann, has now been named head of the new Ineos Automotive division and has begun looking for sites to build a manufacturing facility, while also recruiting personnel from the automotive industry. This is an amazing project for everyone involved – our job is to create the world’s best 4 x 4 and we are already moving forward with our plans,” Heilmann says.

Ineos chairman Jim Radcliffe, who came up with the proposal, admits to being a fan of the Defender and believes he can produce a vehicle targeted at adventure and ‘active driving’ markets, but also for those who need a work and utility machine.

“I am a great admirer of the old Land Rover Defender and have enormous respect for its off-road capability, and our new 4 x4 has been inspired by it,” Ratcliffe says.

“But whilst our off-roader might share its spirit, our new car will be a major improvement on previous models”.

Industry sources suggest that the first Ineos 4×4 could appear in 2020 at prices similar to those of the Defender. JLR has previously indicated that it intends to launch a successor to the Defender – this is expected to appear in 2019 and is rumoured to be much more high-tech than its predecessor.

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.