Copyright 2001

[ November 13th 2001 ]

Land Rover is hoping to cash in on Japan's love of British motoring icons by exporting its workhorse Defender there for the first time in its 53-year history. Japan became the biggest export market for the Mini, even when sales were falling in the UK, and the new MINI is also expected to become a big seller there. Land Rover intends to sell just 400 Defenders a year in Japan, with demand likely to be high because of its rarity value.

The Solihull-based company decided the time was right to to launch the Defender in the Land of the Rising Sun because of the success it has had with its Freelander V6 model, which went on sale there in February. The publicity surrounding the special Lara Croft limited edition version of the Defender, which featured in the film Tomb Raider, has also sparked demand for the vehicle.

A Land Rover spokeswoman said: "The Japanese love British motoring icons and you can't get more iconic than the Defender. Exports will start next year and we hope that it might become a cult vehicle among Japanese drivers. Certainly with the recent success of Freelander there and the established sales of Range Rover and Discovery the name of Land Rover is well-known in Japan, so now seems the right time to launch the Defender."

Defenders range in price from pounds 17,500 for the more traditional versions used on farms to pounds 26,265 for the smart Defender 90 County Station Wagon. The Defenders exported to Japan are likely to be the County versions, which have also found favour among smart city drivers in London. The models exported to Japan are expected to retail there for the same price as they sell in the UK.

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