Land Rover’s Journey Ends After 67 Years On The Road


In two years, British car maker Land Rover will cease production of its Defender model, a vehicle that Kenyans have grown to associate with government.

A holdover from British colonial rule in Kenya, the vehicle became especially popular with the police and the provincial administration, and whenever it was sighted, people knew the government was around.

According to the British press, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has announced that the last of the Defenders will roll off the production line in December 2015.

In Kenya the vehicle has been synonymous with CMC Motors which held the local franchise for many years.

RMA Motors Kenya are the current local dealers.

The British manufacturers say they are discontinuing production of the Defender because the vehicle does not meet stringent new rules on emissions set by the European Commission and Parliament and which come into effect by 2020. “There are conditions the Defender just won’t meet,” the company said.

The car maker said the decision to cease production was therefore “mainly legislation-based”.

The European Union recently updated its emissions standards, requiring a drastic drop in nitrogen oxide emissions for 2014.

The directives are aimed at reducing what are known as “regulated emissions,” which include carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons. Currently limits for new cars and light-duty vans must conform to “Euro IV” standards.

However, vehicle manufacturers are well aware that future cars will have to conform to yet tighter regulations.

When new standards on the levels of carbon dioxide emissions were introduced, manufacturers were allowed to phase out cars that didn’t meet them.

This goal was supposed to be achieved over three years: by 2012, 65 per cent of each manufacturer’s newly registered cars must comply, 75 per cent by 2013, 80 per cent by 2014 and 100 per cent by 2015.

Land Rover has also had to discontinue sales of the Defender in the United States because the vehicle no longer meets federal safety standards that require driver and passenger side air bags.


Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern said: “Replacing the iconic Defender is one of the biggest challenges in the automotive design world; it is a car that inspires people worldwide.”

“A replacement vehicle will join the Land Rover model range, but we have not yet announced the name or details of the new product,” he said.

“Production of the iconic and globally recognised Land Rover Defender will cease in December 2015,” Jaguar Land Rover told London-based magazine Telegraph Luxury.

JLR said a replacement model for the Defender will be launched in 2016.

However, local JLR dealer RMA Motors Kenya said they are yet to receive notification of the end of the production of the Land Rover Defender.

“We are yet to receive any official communication,” said Paul Kahura, RMA sales and marketing official.

Mr Kahura said the model is still a much-loved vehicle in Kenya for off-road driving, adding that the government is still placing orders to have more of the vehicles supplied.

Apart from the police and provincial administration, the vehicle is also widely used by the Judiciary and the military as well as parastatals such as the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and banks, especially for their mobile banking services in rural areas.

JLR’s head of products John Edwards said the new model would be “instantly recognised” by people who drive the current vehicle but it “won’t necessarily be cheap”.

But, in keeping with the demands of 21st century motoring, the proposed replacement model will have many new features.

However, local Land Rover lovers have expressed concern over the impending move, noting that it is a good car for tough conditions.

“It’s a mistake,” said Defender owner Damian Ombajo from Kisumu. “What are they going to make instead? That car is very masculine and is very convenient for rugged terrain in Kenya. A Land Rover is hardy. It might be a rusty junk, but very tough,” he said.

That its spare parts are readily available and affordable, especially for the pre-1998 models, appeals to many.

The Defender model was introduced in the market in 1948. It was not given the name Defender until the early 1990s, shortly after the launch of the Land Rover Discovery.

More than two million units have been sold, JLR said.

The Defender is probably best known for its all-weather roadworthiness. While some cars shirk from extreme conditions, the Defender was built to tackle them head-on.


Land Rover holds a royal warrant, as supplier to the royal household dating back to the 1950s, shortly after it was produced.

The royal relationship with Land Rover dates to 1948 when King George VI viewed the original Land Rover.

Queen Elizabeth II, who has been pictured at the wheel of Land Rovers, took delivery of her first one shortly after coming to the throne in 1952 and has used Land Rovers ever since.

She used a specially adapted one for her first world tour in 1953, Winston Churchill was given one for his 80th birthday at his home in Chartwell, while another was used by Pope John Paul II on his tour of England in 1982.