- New traditional 4x4 vehicle
- Backed by UK chemical giant Ineos
- Developed by Magna Steyr, due in 2022
The British 4x4 conceived as a hardcore off-roader to fill the void left by the old Land Rover Defender, the Ineos Grenadier, will now be built in France, not Wales as previously planned.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos Automotive has confirmed that the Grenadier will be built in Hambach, in a factory Ineos has bought from Mercedes-Benz.
It currently produces Smart ForTwo electric cars, which Ineos will, incongruously, build alongside the Grenadier on a contract basis.
"Hambach presented us with a unique opportunity that we simply could not ignore: to buy a modern automotive manufacturing facility with a world-class workforce," said Ratcliffe. "Ineos Automotive set out a vision to build the world’s best utilitarian 4x4, and at our new home in Hambach we will do just that."
While the move will preserve 1200 jobs in the French plant, it puts paid to a revival of car manufacturing in Wales.
Production of the Grenadier, which is being co-developed by vehicle specialists Magna Steyr, will start in late 2021, with the first customers now expected to get their cars in early 2022.
Although the move deprives Ineos of the opportunity to wave the Union Jack in the face of Land Rover – which builds the new Defender in Slovakia – it does mean it can slot straight into a modern, recently upgraded factory, handily located close to the German border, just 400km from its engine supply at BMW.
CEO Dirk Heilman added that "this acquisition marks our biggest milestone yet in the development of the Grenadier. Alongside the exhaustive testing programme that our prototype vehicles are now undergoing, we can now begin preparations at Hambach to build our 4x4 from late next year for delivery to our customers around the globe."
That means a possible 200 jobs may now go elsewhere.
"Some new options, such as this one with the plant in Hambach, have opened up that were simply not available to us previously," Heilmann, the chief executive of Ineos Automotive told the BBC.
"We are therefore having another look - and reviewing whether the addition of two new manufacturing facilities is the right thing to do in the current environment."
Ratcliffe last year said that the plan was to build in the UK.
Ineos Grenadier: what you need to know
Ineos is a British chemicals company that operates globally, with 183 manufacturing facilities in 26 countries supplying markets around the world.
Fans of F1 and yacht racing might have seen the brand name on the Mercedes-Benz F1 team cars and America’s Cup racing boats.
Ineos founder Jim Ratcliffe is a proud Brit and was a big fan of the Land Rover Defender. So much so, that when JLR announced it was discontinuing the Defender as we knew it, Ratcliffe tried to buy the rights and equipment to keep the Defender in production.
JLR didn’t want a bar of that, so Ratcliffe decided to do it on his own and created Ineos Automotive to build the Grenadier.
From the off, the Grenadier was always going to have a traditional box-section ladder frame, with beam axles, permanent four-wheel drive, lockable diffs and internal combustion engines.
Says commercial director Mark Tennant: "Number one focus was off-road mobility and capability. An off-road vehicle that doesn’t keep on going and providing years of faithful service isn’t really doing the job. It’s got to get you out into the bush and back again.
"It’s a vehicle designed first and foremost to be a working tool. Not everybody is going to work it as hard as some of the really exacting requirements some of our customers will have, but it’s got to be capable of that.
"You shouldn’t have to suffer, you shouldn’t be in any pain for having a utilitarian vehicle. In terms of connectivity, screens, seat comfort, room – that’s all built-in. It’s not a throwback. It’s a modern vehicle built to a certain style."