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Land Rover Defender launch in U.S. could be delayed

American Land Rover fans, who have waited 23 years for a new version of their favorite rugged off-road vehicle, may have to keep waiting due to the coronavirus.

Production of the Defender at Land Rover's plant in Nitra, Slovakia, has been halted since March 20, and Jaguar Land Rover officials in England have not said when output might resume.

Two other automakers with plants in Slovakia — Kia and Volkswagen — have set dates to resume production. Kia plans to restart production April 6, while Volkswagen will reopen its plant April 9. Land Rover began producing the Defender in October, with output slowly ramping up.

Land Rover has planned to launch U.S. sales of the Defender by late spring.

"We will continue to review and monitor the rapidly changing circumstances before taking the decision to return to production," Land Rover spokeswoman Leah Watkins-Hall said Monday.

If Jaguar Land Rover follows the time frame of Kia and VW, the U.S. launch might go as planned. One Land Rover dealer told Automotive News that he believes if the Nitra plant remains offline for more than two weeks, the U.S. launch would likely be affected.

Land Rover is counting on the super-rugged Defender to keep the brand's winning streak going as well as to boost profit for the company and for dealers, who expect to sell a record amount of accessories with the vehicle.