The last Land Rover Defenders are rolling off the production line

November 28, 2015, 4:58am

More than 80% of JLR's vehicles are sold for export. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

By Elisabeth Behrmann and Tom Hall, Bloomberg Business

The Land Rover Defender has motored on for almost 70 years, and anyone present at the launch would still recognize it today. After making more than 2 million of the workhorses - a truck loved by Winston Churchill and the Queen of England - the company will cease production in Solihull, England, in late January.

Blame ever tougher emissions laws and pedestrian safety rules. Jaguar Land Rover's cachet for off-road excellence is built on the reputation of the boxy classic, used to ferry British soldiers during the Korean War and the Red Cross in crisis areas everywhere.

The company has plans for a replacement model that'll combine its “can go anywhere” pedigree with today's touchscreens and cordless phone charging. It's a tough act to follow.

Jaguar Land Rover produced 18,000 Defenders last year, down from peak annual output of about 56,000 annually in the 1970s.

The Defender's design stems from an outline drawn in the sand at a beach in Wales by designer and engineer Maurice Wilks in 1947. The Series was inspired by the U.S.-built Willys Jeep.

The Defender's first annual production in 1948, totaling 8,000 cars, sold out in one day. It took just 10 months from a sketch in the sand in 1947 to production.

The Defender has been on sale with few changes for almost 70 years. Most models today get a complete revamp every seven years.

JLR showed a new concept Defender in 2011, the DC100. The idea didn't gain traction, but the company could reveal ideas for the Defender's new direction with a fresh concept as early as the Geneva International Motor Show in 2016, says analyst Ian Fletcher at forecaster IHS Automotive.

The iconic truck is put together by 450 workers in Solihull, U.K. The cars are still almost completely hand-built. Defender production employs about 470 people, many of whom will go on to work on the F-Pace, Jaguar's first-ever SUV on sale next year.

After Tata Motors acquired Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford in 2008, it merged the two brands into one company.

JLR's Solihull plant employs about 9,000 workers.More than 80% of JLR's vehicles are sold for export.The company made almost half a million cars last year across all of its marques.

The front grill of a Land Rover Defender is seen on the production line at Tata Motors Ltd.'s Jaguar Land Rover vehicle manufacturing plant. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Part of this article was put together from a series of photo captions. View the original article here