The most devastating typhoon to ever hit land struck the sovereign island country of Philippines last month and the nation and its people are still reeling from the desolation.
> Aid organisations from across the globe have been sending in staff and vehicles to provide support to those most in need and one of the most likely sights to be seen fighting through the dilapidated and storm damaged roads of the country is that of the hardy Land Rover Defender.
AOL Cars caught up with Oliver Mathew, fleet sales manager in Europe for Guava International, the sole distributor to the aid and development community for Land Rover, to find out why the British-built machine is still the go-to vehicle for the Non-Governmental Organisations...
Hi Oliver, can you explain what you do?
I have been working for Guava International for five years now and we have a global remit to support aid and development organisations with innovative fleet solutions, this mainly involves providing Land Rover Defenders – whether in standard from or modified – to aid organisations or Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
The Defender's main strength is how flexible it is. It remains one of the very few hand-built vehicles, which allows us to modify the chassis and the body with ease. Add to this the capacity to winch, the torque strength of the engine, the impressive payload, durable suspension and the ease at which most engine components can be fixed at the side of the road and you have the perfect vehicle for what we need.
What is the most typical product that you supply to Non-Governmental Organisations?
For aid organisations, the Defender will commonly take the shape of an ambulance that uses either the shorter 110 chassis or the larger 130 chassis. The heavy-duty suspension allows it to go into very remote areas to bring emergency relief.
What has been your involvement with the Philippines?
The company is ready to react and modify any vehicle for emergency situations that may arise - as they did in the Philippines - but most aid organisations and NGOs will have long-term projects that already include emergency relief vehicles. We have over 300 Land Rovers stationed in both the UK and Thailand ready to respond to any situation that arises, some of these will have made their way to the Philippines.
What kind of alterations do you typically make to the Defender?
Everyone knows that a Defender already possesses impressive off-road capabilities and they already can handle extreme environments. Most people think of modifications as large overhauls to the suspension and steering but the most popular is actually an advanced fuel filter that allows poor quality fuel to work in the engine. This modification allows the vehicles to travel to areas that will typically add a lot of water and other chemicals to their fuel in order to make it go further.
The Land Rover brand often receives a bashing for its fuel-guzzling characteristics, is there a link between Global Warming and natural disasters like the ones seen in the Philippines?
Global Warming is obviously a big issue, but have I seen a greater number of disaster relief cases over the last five years? No, probably not. Land Rover already has one the biggest sustainability programmes in the automotive industry and is committed to cutting waste and making engines more fuel-efficient.
Could you see a day when electric or hybrid rescue vehicles will be a common sight?
I don't see why not but we'd need to look at timelines to see how realistic it is. The Western world is certainly more geared up to support electric vehicles but the more remote, hard to reach places – that most of our vehicles end up serving – just don't have the infrastructure yet.