A recent rumor about getting the Land Rover Defender back to production is making people scratch their heads. The car would be put back in line with the help of Jim Ratcliffe, a billionaire that is a huge fans of the vehicle. If Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) itself has given up on its icon, due to the cost of putting it in shape for safety and fuel-efficiency rules, why would anyone else be able to do it? Even if he is a billionaire, owner of a company as big as Ineos? The answer lies beyond the typical car industry logic. And is what puts it in touch with the DeLorean DMC-12 we have mentioned in the title: both cars will have a low production volume. And low production cars do not have to comply with a lot of regulations.
According to Autocar’s most recent report, Ratcliffe would be willing to invest £ 250 million in a plant in the north of England. It would be able to produce up to 20,000 vehicles a year. And we should stress the “up to”. No more than that. When you divide that for the months of the year, you get a monthly production of around 1,700 units. JLR has made a smaller investment, of £ 175 million, or R$ 750 million, in order to build its Itatiaia plant in Brazil. It started production in June and it can deliver 24,000 units every year. This proves the investment announced by the British entrepreneur is pretty possible.
Sub-Saharan Africa and USA?
Ratcliffe would be willing to sell his new Defender in Sub-Saharan Africa. Even if we are not aware on the size of the market in these countries, the amount of production may be more than enough. What does not fit is the entrepreneur’s intention of selling the car in the USA. But it may fit if the annual worldwide production of the new Defender is limited to 5,000 units. This would allow it to be considered a low-volume manufacturer. At least according to the new Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015. Like the new DMC will be.
The new “Defender” will not have that name, even if it is a tribute to the Land Rover model. This is not exactly a new solution. Santana Motor has already produced a “generic” Defender. Its last version was called Santana Aníbal. The Spanish manufacturer does not give Ratcliffe’s idea a bright prospect: it went bankrupt in 2011. And its production lines have not been sold so far, what may come as an opportunity for Ineos’ plans.
Another car company that made a similar vehicle to the Defender was ARO, a Romanian automaker. Although the ARO 24 Series resembled the Land Rover, the companies never had any business. Santana has produced the Series II and the Series III Defender under license. ARO went bankrupt in 2006 and was bought by Auto Max Czech (AMC). It still produces the ARO 4×4.
Ratcliffe is conducting a feasibility study and promises to announce his final plans in November. JLR denies the last Defender will ever be produced by anyone. That does not imply Ratcliffe cannot count with their blessing in producing something similar with no risk of copyright infringements. After the plans are released, Ineos representatives believe a production car would appear in a matter of 2 or 3 years.
The British entrepreneur should give it a considerate thought on a low-volume production of his Defender wannabe in order not to have to comply with the strict US regulations. And it is worth reminding that he wants to use a diesel engine in the SUV. All cars, even the low-volume units, have to comply with emissions. So the car will need to use a diesel engine that can pass the emission rules of USA. Volkswagen has not managed to do so (at least not in a legitimate way). And Ratcliffe has ruled out the Ford engine that was used by the Defender. He wants his new car to be as dependable as a Toyota Land Cruiser. That is quite an indication he may have a Japanese manufacturer to supply the engines.
What about DeLorean?
We have promised to keep you informed on the development of the new DMC-12 and we will keep it. They have not yet installed the 2 engines already selected for tests. Nor selected the suppliers of a number of other components, but conversations are running well. But they already have a project for the future plant. The one you see below.
The factory will be installed in the same 3,700 square meter building the company owns in Texas. It currently holds the showroom, the service and restoration center and the parts warehouse. Soon it will be transformed into the production line for the first and second year of production. At first, they expect to produce a new DMC-12 per month there. By the end of the second year of manufacturing, the aim is to produce one car per week.
The company already has a WMI, provided by SAE. The VIN number of the new cars will start with 1D9. The 12th, 13th and 14th positions of the 17-digit number for DeLorean will be 779.