LAND ROVER DEFENDER OF THE FAITH
Copyright 2001 www.variety.com

[ December 3rd 2001 ]

The Land Rover Defender is arguably the most important icon in the 4x4 world. Arguably, because Jeep is the original contemporary 4x4. Arguably also because today, in almost any television footage of war zones or expeditions, the 4x4 enthusiasts will see that the preferred vehicle would be a Toyota Land Cruiser.

Well yes, Lara Croft uses a special project Defender 110 High Capacity as the Tomb Raider, and so did the Camel Trophy events until a few years ago when it lost its 4x4 direction and its innocents were shanghaied into canoeing and abseiling.

The Camel Trophy events, and the cigarette advertising budget which bankrolled the campaign which spanned more than a decade, did a great deal more good for Land Rover's image than it did for selling Camel cigarettes, and Robert Dover, Land Rover UK president, is working to fix this, starting with the Defender.

Dover, met recently at the Tokyo Motor Show and in a special interview with the CBT, said: "The Defender is an icon for Land Rover. We own the shape and the design. Don't worry about that - we won't change the shape. "But we're working on matching it to the image of toughness, of ultimate capabality. It won't take less than three years and may take up to six years," Dover told CBT.

If you want to rescue someone from the mountain, or send emergency supplies to the toughest place in the world, the Land Rover Defender should be there, smack in the thick of the action. "The Defender must represent ultimate capability. Anywhere, anytime, it must be seen as the toughest. We want to get this premium slice of the market and we'll use Ford processes to drive quality. We know what works and what don't. We're going design the quality in the process. Specifically, we have a plant vehicle team, half of whom are manufacturing engineers. Then, we have the current quality teams. There is one team each for the Defender, the Freelander, the Discovery and the Range Rover."

In reply to a question that the Defender did not address the needs of the hot and dusty tropics where the air-conditioning of a utility vehicle could no longer be regarded as a luxury, Dover (who admitted to travelling to Malacca in a Toyota) said that it was an engineering problem which could be solved.

The Defender is the icon product for Land Rover and whatever it does, the shape can't be changed, which is so recognisable that, like the Volkswagen Beetle, it can be distinguished even from outerspace. "We want to get this utility market. Not all of it, just the premium slice of it," he said.

Starting next year, the Land Rover Defender 110 will be sold for the first time in Japan. The only Defender available in Japan previously was the 90, sold as a limited edition item. The latest Defender comes with a new central locking system, new power windows, new rear doors and an upgraded dashboard. There will also be Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) and 4-wheel ETC (electronic traction control).

If anyone can put the shine back on the product, Dover, 46, would be one of them. He's also the man who put the quality back into Jaguar after Ford bought it and injected the prestigious brand into its Premier Automotive Group.

Biodata of ROBERT A. DOVER President, Land Rover.

ROBERT A. Dover, 56, was appointed president of Jaguar and Land Rover and was a vice president of Ford Motor Co on November 7 2001. Previously Dover served as chairman and chief executive officer of Land Rover.

Before joining Land Rover, Dover was chairman of Aston Martin Lagonda, a position he took in April 1997. Prior to that appointment, he was the chief programme engineer responsible for the Jaguar XK8 sports car. He has worked for Land Rover before - from 1984 to 1987 when he was Land Rover's director of manufacturing. During this time, he was also the product director for the original Discovery.

Born in Upminster, Essex in 1945, Dover holds a first class honours degree in mechanical engineering from Manchester University. After a spell in the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, he entered the motor industry in 1968. He has held senior positions with British Leyland, Land Rover, Jaguar Cars and Massey-Ferguson.

He is married and lives in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. His interests include driving and restoring classic cars - he owns a 1961 Daimler SP250 and a 1983 Morgan. He also plays tennis.

 

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