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High demand means the Land Rover Defender could celebrate its 33rd birthday after all

Two years ago, Land Rover announced plans to stop building the iconic Defender by the end of 2015. However, demand for the venerable off-roader has been unexpectedly high, so the British car maker has reportedly decided to extend production into 2016.

“Although I’ve been told that February is the definite cut-off date, someone else has said it could possibly go on until April,” revealed a Land Rover employee who works at the Solihull, England, factory where the Defender is built. Land Rover has chosen not to comment on the matter.

Land Rover sold just 17,781 examples of the Defender last year, but orders have grown exponentially since the beginning of the year. As a result, production was ramped up by nearly 50 percent earlier this year, and the 450 workers that build the off-roader are still struggling to keep up.

Even if production is extended by a couple of months, Land Rover will soon have to stop building the Defender because the 32-year-old truck won’t comply with the strict safety and emissions regulations that are scheduled to come into effect across the European Union in the coming years. The 36-year-old G-Class is fully compliant, but it’s also a lot more expensive — and, consequently, a lot more profitable — so Mercedes-Benz was able to justify the investment.

Land Rover isn’t shy about admitting that it’s actively looking into shifting Defender production to another part of the world. The move would add years to the Defender’s life but it wouldn’t make the truck legal in Europe, and sales are still scheduled to stop before December 31, 2015.

What’s next?

Engineers and designers are busily developing a successor to the Defender but its launch has been delayed several times. Although details are still few and far between, executives had previously revealed that the next Defender will lose the current model’s time-tested, function-over-form design and adopt a bolder appearance inspired by Land Rover’s latest design language.

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Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
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