► Demand for final Defenders up 20%
► Last of veteran 4x4s due in December
► Tipped to sell out by summer 2015
Demand for the soon-to-be-killed Land Rover Defender is jumping as buyers look to snap up one of the venerable British off-roading icons.
The company has increased production at the Lode Lane factory in Solihull from 100 a day to 120 in recent weeks to cope with the rise in demand for the Defender.
And Land Rover has stretched the single shift by adding five extra hours a week to meet the growing interest.
Land Rover Defender: the end of an era
Jaguar Land Rover confirmed in January that the final Defenders would be built in December 2015 - in Britain, at least.
For it has admitted the possibility that it might switch Defender production abroad for its twilight years. An easy step for a company with Indian owners and a foothold in China and south America.
The car will soon become uneconomic to keep in sync with European safety and emissions regulations, forcing Land Rover to pull the plug on production stretching back - in one shape or form - all the way back to the company's roots in 1948.
Will it really sell out early, or is it just a publicity stunt?
Privately, Land Rover officials predict the Defender could sell out by the time the special anniversary editions arrive this summer. They would say that, wouldn't they? But there's no denying the added interest in 4x4 circles. They simply don't make 'em like this any more...
Gregg Niblett, manufacturing manager in charge of the Defender line, told CAR that Land Rover could increase production even further if it needed to.
'We are building 122 Defenders a day at present which is pretty flat-out,' he said. 'If we wanted to increase that, we'd have to add another shift. I'm not sure we need to yet, but if there is more and more demand, we will look at it.'
Five hundred staff work on the Defender line and they're already putting more hours in. CAR witnessed the line in action this week and can confirm it's an incredibly manual process, with fewer than 10 robots on the whole line - compared with 328 to build a Range Rover on the other side of the same plant in Lode Lane, Solihull.
What's next for the Defender?
The model will be replaced in Land Rover's line-up. It has already shown the DC100 concepts to give an inkling of a possible new direction, but CAR understands quite a different proposition is likely, mixing old and new with a wide model footprint to cater for different types of buyer.
After all, Defenders are totally classless cars, appealing to farmers and soldiers, shooters and country squires. We'll have a full scoop dossier on the new Land Rover Defender very soon...