Currently reading: Ineos Bridgend factory talks "very advanced", minister claims
Ineos Automotive is reportedly close to a deal to build off-roader in Wales, bringing hundreds of jobs after Ford closure

Ineos Automotive, a subsidiary of British chemicals company Ineos, appears to be close to a deal to build its new 4x4 in Bridgend, Wales, next to the soon-to-close Ford factory. 

The company's boss, billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, has reportedly been interested in the site for some time. Now Welsh economy minister Ken Skates has told BBC Radio Wales that talks are "very advanced" between the Welsh government and the newly established car maker. 

Official: Ineos confirms Bridgend factory for Grenadier 4x4

Ineos plans to build a Land Rover Defender-inspired model, dubbed the Projekt Grenadier. It intends to reveal early sketches of the car later this year before production starts in 2021.

Reports suggest that rather than use Ford's existing production facility, as previously considered, Ineos would build its own plant close by. If it goes ahead, the new facility could bring hundreds of new jobs to an area set to be badly affected by Ford's decision to close its engine plant next year.

Ineos's upcoming challenger to the iconic Defender is being developed in partnership with German engineering firm MBtech, which is part-owned by Mercedes-Benz.

The technical tie-up will involve MBtech allocating 200 full-time engineers to the project from its Stuttgart base. Ineos Automotive CEO Dirk Heilmann says the deal will "bring together German engineering and British design and entrepreneurship". MBtech will be tasked with "working up" the exact specifications of the vehicle to ensure that it is a "truly rugged, reliable and uncompromising 4x4".

MBtech was founded in 1995 as Mercedes-Benz Technologies, but the German car making giant sold a 65% share of the firm to AKKA Technologies in 2012. MBtech continues to work on multiple projects for Mercedes as well as with other car firms. Under the deal with Ineos, it will take the lead on overall vehicle development of the Grenadier, overseeing all components.

Ineos turned over £43 billion in 2017, making a £3.8bn profit. It has plans to invest around £700 million in a chosen site for the Grenadier. 

The company has previously stated that it's open to a number of possible solutions; it could share a facility with another company, convert a used plant or build a new one. “We’d originally said our desire is to build it in the UK, and that remains the case,” Ineos director Tom Crotty told Autocar last year. But the company has also received a number of offers from European sites.

Ineos is still keen to start production in the UK, despite uncertainty over the automotive industry as concerns mount over the possibility of the UK leaving the European Union without a deal.

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“We’ve gone into this decision with eyes wide open,” Crotty said when asked about Brexit's impact. “It really doesn’t have an impact. We think this is a project for the UK that would be hugely beneficial post-Brexit, because we would be exporting 70-80% of the cars we would make."

Ineos is targeting sales of around 25,000 units per year. The company has previously outlined its vision for the 4x4 to be sold globally but is particularly targeting the US, sub-Saharan Africa and Europe. Prices are set to stick closely to those of the original Defender, which was priced from £25,000. 

The 'Projekt Grenadier' name references the Grenadier pub in Knightsbridge that's close to the Ineos office and where plans for the car were first discussed, according to Crotty. The German spelling of 'project' is a nod to the nationality of Heilmann. 

“We want the best-quality engineering under the skin of this vehicle, hence the nod in this direction,” Crotty said. “We want to remind everyone that what we’re trying to do is make an uncompromising 4x4 with high levels of engineering.”

Much of the design and powertrain options are still to be decided, but Crotty told Autocar last year that it's likely to have a diesel option, while hybrid and electric technology is being explored.

“We’re looking at a range of options for powertrains,” he said. “Hybrid technology could well be on the cards, especially because it would help with emissions management, but we would want it to retain its off-road values.

“Pure EV is also a possibility. We’re looking at everything and haven’t closed anything off. I’d be very surprised if a diesel option wasn’t part of that."

Crotty also confirmed that the SUV will have a traditional chassis, rather than a monocoque, and it will be relatively low-tech, unlike Land Rover’s forthcoming Defender replacement, which is due on sale in 2019.

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“It will be extremely high-quality and extremely reliable,” Crotty added.

As for styling, Crotty said the SUV will have the “spirit of the Defender” but it won’t be a lookalike. “It won’t be a modern SUV,” he explained. “It will be much more like an old-style, very rugged off-roader.”

Ineos claims to be one of the world’s largest manufacturers, but this will be the first time that it has produced a vehicle.

Crotty accepted that the project is a risk, but maintained that it had the full backing of the company and the team was determined to make the car a profitable success.

“People probably think we’re crazy because we’re not in the car industry,” he said. “There’s risk in everything you do, but we can manage that risk. We are manufacturers; we know what we’re doing and we know we need high quality from the people in the industry.”

Ineos founder and CEO Jim Ratcliffe is a big fan of the Defender and was behind the company’s move to make its own model. 

“This is a fantastically exciting project,” Ratcliffe said. “We want to build the world’s purest 4x4 and are aiming it at explorers, farmers and off-road enthusiasts across the globe.”

Ineos said it “is determined that the vehicle will not only fill a gap in the market vacated by the Defender but also provide a step-change improvement in build quality and reliability”. 

Ratcliffe added: “I am a great admirer of the old Defender and have enormous respect for its off-road capability, and our new 4x4 has been inspired by it. But while our off-roader might share its spirit, our new car will be a major improvement on previous models.”

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is fiercely protective of its Defender. In 2016, it prevented a Canadian company from using the name 'Defender' for an all-terrain vehicle. 

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At the time, JLR legal boss Keith Benjamin said: “The Defender is an iconic vehicle that is part of JLR’s past, present and future. The success of our business is based on unique design and engineering attributes, and we intend to protect the brand robustly around the world.”

Ineos has informed JLR of its plans. Crotty said there was no conflict between the two parties and that JLR’s response was “neutral”. “There have been no great fallings out –  just sensible conversation,” he said.

“We’re not out to produce a copy; we’re out to produce a new vehicle that is filling a space that the Defender used to fill.”

Read more

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Crossing the Atlantic in a Land Rover Defender (sort of)

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russ13b 19 August 2019


the declining sales and factory closures aren't due to brexit.

6th.replicant 19 August 2019

Irony, anyone?

Billionaire Brexit-supporting environmental vandalist proposes UK-based car manufacturing start-up just as all of the established UK-based car manufacuturers report declining sales and / or factory closures due to, umm, er... Brexit.

"We can't wait to get started," commented Ineos sales director, Ivor Delooshonal-Plan.

6th.replicant 19 August 2019

Irony, anyone?

Billionaire Brexit-supporting environmental vandalist proposes UK-based car manufacturing start-up just as all of the established UK-based car manufacuturers report decling sales and / or factory closures due to, umm, er... Brexit.

"We can't wait to get started," commented Ineos sales director, Ivor Delooshonal-Plan.