So we asked Joe Eberhardt, president and CEO of Land Rover North America, what impact the return of the Bronco will have on the new Defender 90. The longer Defender 110 was reintroduced to North America in June 2020 after a 23-year hiatus. The smaller Defender 90 was supposed to follow last fall with 500 units of the 2020 First Edition but when the pandemic impacted production, it was delayed to February and pushed into the 2021 model year.
The Bronco has seen repeated delays, as well, due to supply issues related to the pandemic. The spring launch was delayed to late summer but models with the Sasquatch package, manual transmission, and some hardtop roof options are being pushed into the 2022 model year.
Heritage SUVs Are Back
Strictly speaking, there is no clearly defined competitive set and audience for the Defender 90, Joe Eberhardt, president and CEO of Land Rover North America, says. But the Bronco is having a positive impact on the segment in general. “There are a lot of vehicles now with a rich heritage,” he says, referring to the Jeep Wrangler being joined by the Bronco and the Defender. The well-executed Bronco is drawing further attention to the segment, building engagement, and resonating with buyers.
Eberhardt calls it a reaffirmation of these types of vehicles. And after a year of restrictions due to the pandemic, these vehicles appeal to people who crave getting out again. These people seem to want to gravitate to authentic brands.
Land Rover Defender 90 Punctuates Lineup
Land Rover is promoting the Defender lineup as a whole. Eberhardt does not have a projection of how many Defender 90s he expects to sell in the U.S or what percentage of the total Defender mix the smaller SUV will account for.
It is a serious off-roader with its 17-inch-shorter wheelbase and overall length than the Defender 110, but the dimensions also make it an attractive urban vehicle, easy to get around town and park. For some it could be a second car or sports car replacement, Eberhardt says. It is offered with five or six seats, but few are expected to forego the center console for an optional jump seat to squeeze a third person up front.
Complicating the rollout is a global shortage of Defenders. The order book exceeds 20,000, JLR officials said this month while releasing quarterly earnings. JLR reported more than 45,000 Defender sales in the past fiscal year that ended March 31. In the U.S., Defender sales have exceeded 16,000 since the June 2020 launch.