Last summer, reports emerged of the plans of British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe to resurrect the iconic Land Rover Defender that went out of production the previous January.
Ratcliffe, the chairman and founder of British chemicals giant Ineos, had been in talks with Jaguar Land Rover about buying the Defender’s intellectual property rights or some of its tooling to restart production. But with Land Rover planning a modern Defender for 2018, those talks didn’t progress far.
Determined to bring to market a rugged, utilitarian off-roader like the Defender and target mining explorers, forestry workers and farmers, as well as off-road enthusiasts, Ratcliffe enlisted a team of experts to determine whether Ineos could go about developing the vehicle itself.
Ratcliffe has since confirmed that after conducting a six-month feasibility study, the project has been given the green light. The goal is to develop a vehicle like the Defender minus shortcomings such as poor drivability and outdated emissions and safety standards, and have it ready in the next two to three years.
“I am a great admirer of the old Land Rover Defender and have enormous respect for its off road capability,” Ratcliffe said in a statement. “But whilst our off-roader might share its spirit, our new car will be a major improvement on previous models.”
Handing the development will be a new division at Ineos dubbed Ineos Automotive. The division will be headed by Dirk Heilmann, formerly head of engineering and technology at the chemicals giant.
Ineos is currently searching for a suitable manufacturing location either in the United Kingdom or other European options. The company is hoping to build between 15,000 and 20,000 units annually. It’s too early to talk pricing but Ineos has hinted at a starting price of less than $ 65,000. Crucially, the vehicle will be sold worldwide.