EXCLUSIVE: BRAZIL: Land Rover eyes US Defender exports

By just-auto.com editorial team | 1 December 2003

Land Rover do Brasil is negotiating exports of its locally-made Defender 110 model to the United States, writes Rogério Louro. The company is confident it can homologate the model to meet US emissions and safety regulations and expects to send a first shipment of 300 units to America at the beginning of 2004.

This will be the first time since 1997 that Land Rover Defender models have been sold in the United States.

A 'limited-edition' batch of 500 long-wheelbase 110 station wagons was sold during the 1993 model year and the short wheelbase 90 was offered in both hard- and soft-top forms between 1994 and 1997. However, according to the website of Clifton Park, New York-based independent Land Rover parts supplier Atlantic British, the manufacturer "..ran into trouble with the government because its design didn't include airbags, a major retrofit being impractical" and imports stopped after the 1997 model year.

500 UK-built Defender 110s were sold in the US in 1993; the shorter 90 model (below) was offered between 1994 and 1997.

Land Rover do Brasil believes there is a potential US market for about 5,000 Defenders per year and also plans to increase sales in Brazil and other Latin America countries. It is also bidding to supply the model for military contracts.

Land Rover has built the Defender in Brazil since 1998 at its plant in São Bernardo do Campo city, São Paulo state. The plant was previously part of a Karmann-Ghia complex opened in the '60s and makes about 1,500 Defenders a year.

The Brazilian-made Defender has about 60% local content and is fitted with a 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine made by International Engines in Canoas, Rio Grande do Sul state.

The UK-built Defenders shipped to the US during the 1990s all had 3.9- or four-litre petrol V8 engines.