Land Rover cancelled plans to turn the new Defender into a pickup truck, but the manufacturer may be softening its position and planning a new open-back variant.
Before the Defender was launched last year, Land Rover was working on plans to create a pickup variant. However, while the Defender arrived as an SUV in short and medium wheelbase versions, the pickup option was quietly dropped.
Traditionally, pickups are constructed in a body-on-frame method, sitting the cabin and load bed on a strong ladder chassis. However, the Defender is a monocoque design, where the chassis and body become a single structural unit, which introduces complications when altering the shape of the body.
According to Autocar reports, Jaguar Land Rover’s executive director of vehicle programmes, Nick Collins, has confirmed that “there were no structural limitations” to building a Defender pickup, and that “you can make a pick-up from a monocoque.”
Not only is the project technically feasible, but Collins confirmed that “there is customer demand” for a pickup model.
“We always said the Defender would be a family,” added Collins.
The Defender 90 and 110 SUVs have been joined by commercial 4×4 variants, known as the Hard Top, while a forthcoming extended 130 model will increase practicality further.
This lengthened model, expected to be more than five metres long, will be an ideal base for a double-cab pickup model.
Land Rover Defender Pickup: Payload Issues?
While the open back will free up some weight, the limited payload of the Hard Top model would need to be increased for the Land Rover Defender pickup to be viable as a commercial model.
Currently limited to a maximum load of 800kg, that falls some way short of the 1,000kg payload capacity required by the HMRC to qualify for VAT relief and LCV taxation.
With an unladen weight of around 2.3 tonnes (rising to as much as 2,463kg on some high-spec models), there’s precious little spare room to increase the Defender’s payload capability before it hits the 3.5-tonne light commercial vehicle gross vehicle weight limit.
Removing some of the monocoque to accommodate a pickup body will free up some mass, but the strengthening required in other areas could well negate that advantage.
Land Rover Defender Pickup: International Demand
Of course, a Defender pickup will find plenty of buyers who don’t need the tax benefits and commercial prowess of a professional truck and would likely become a sought after lifestyle vehicle.
Popularity in America is all but assured, too, where it would allow Land Rover to compete with the locally-produced Chevrolet, Ford and RAM competitors. Despite that, a draconian 25% import duty is applied to foreign-built pickup trucks – the so-called chicken tax – and that will leave an already expensive Defender looking very costly.