Land Rover has confirmed the British brand is considering taking on the likes of the Toyota HiLux in the form of a Defender ute.
Speaking at the Australian launch of the new Jaguar XE and F-Pace SVR, the director of Jaguar Land Rover’s overseas region Martin Limpert told CarsGuide he knew how popular off-road utes such as the HiLux and Ford Ranger were in Australia and was aware of the demand in other markets, too.
“We’re getting that feedback and obviously there are markets that indeed are asking about the potential for a pick-up or that kind of derivative of one of our products in the future,” he said.
“We are permanently looking at and evaluating opportunities. Let’s first launch the Defender. And we’re taking on that feedback and we’re trying to evaluate. In the end it has to be a viable business case for us as well, but we understand the demand,” he said.
CarsGuide asked Jaguar Land Rover Australia managing director Mark Cameron if a high-performance ute to rival the Ranger Raptor could also be on the books.
“I think for Australia we could carry that off and it would do very well,” he said.
“But as Martin said, we’d have to make a global business case, because as we’ve seen in Australia, manufacturing just for one market is not viable.”
Whether the upcoming Defender platform could be used for a ute is uncertain outside Land Rover.
While the previous vehicle’s body-on-frame construction allowed for various body styles, such as a ute, the new-generation Defender is expected to use a variation of the aluminum monocoque which also underpins the Discovery.
There has even been speculation Land Rover could embark on a joint venture with another carmaker to give it access to a platform capable of supporting a four-wheel drive ute.
CarsGuide’s off-road specialists believe the British brand would steer clear of this to avoid the risk of diluting its 'go-anywhere' heritage.
Instead, it seems more likely Land Rover will solely develop a platform or use one of its own existing chassis for a Defender ute.
We’ll have to wait and see, but in the meantime CarsGuide’s artists have put together this rendering of what a Defender ute might look like.
In 2018 sales of utes in Australia came to 210,000 and in July this year Kia announced it would be entering the lucrative market by 2022 with a ute offering of its own.