Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe with the Land Rover Defender
Chemical firm Ineos will build a Land Rover Defender-like model that could have a hybrid or electric powertrain, Ineos director Tom Crotty has told Autocar.
The model could make production by 2020, and Ineos is targeting worldwide sales of around 15,000 units per year. Prices are set to stick closely to those of the outgoing Defender, which was priced from £25,000.
Ineos has outlined its vision for its Defender-inspired car, calling it an “uncompromising, traditional 4x4” sold globally but particularly targeting the US, sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.
Much of the design and powertrain options are still to be decided, but Crotty confirmed it is likely to have a diesel option, while hybrid and electric technology is being explored.
Crotty also confirmed to Autocar that it will have a traditional chassis, not a monocoque, and it will be relatively low-tech – unlike Land Rover’s own forthcoming high-tech Defender replacement.
“It will be extremely high quality and extremely reliable,” said Crotty.
“We’re looking at a range of options for powertrains,” he added. “Hybrid technology could well be on the cards, especially because it would help with emission 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 said.
Ineos is looking at a minimum timescale of three years before its vehicle is on the roads, with time needed to develop the design and build a factory from scratch.
Crotty said Ineos was keeping the name for its off-roader under wraps, but it’s being discussed now.
As for styling, Crotty confirmed it will have the “spirit of the Defender” but it won’t be a lookalike.
“It won’t be a modern SUV,” he said. “It will be much more like an old-style very rugged off-roader.”
Ineos says it is one of the world’s largest manufacturers, but it is the first time it has produced a vehicle.
The project will be headed up by Dirk Heilmann, former head of engineering and technology at Ineos. Heilmann, now boss of the newly formed Ineos Automotive, is currently recruiting a team of “automotive experts”. He said: “This is an amazing project for everyone involved. Our job is to create the world’s best 4x4 and we are already moving forward with our plans”.
Crotty accepted that the project is a risk but maintained that it had the full backing of the company and it was determined to make it 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.”
Autocar reported last July that the company, headed by billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, was considering building a Defender replica and was carrying out a feasibility study to see if the model was economically viable for production.
With the feasibility study now complete and the plans confirmed, the firm said it is prepared to invest “many hundreds of millions” in making the new vehicle, and hopes this can be done in the UK.
While Ineos aims to build its own factory for this project, Crotty said that Ineos is talking to a number of manufacturers with regards to striking a deal to obtain parts for the new 4x4.
Boss 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.”
The firm 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”.
It added that a suitable manufacturing location was the next phase of the project and the company will look at UK sites alongside other European options.
Ratcliffe added: “I am a great admirer of the old Land Rover Defender and have enormous respect for its off-road capability, and our new 4 x4 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 is fiercely protective of its Defender. In December last year, it prevented a Canadian company using the name Defender for an all-terrain vehicle.
At the time, Jaguar Land Rover legal boss Keith Benjamin said: “The Land Rover Defender is an iconic vehicle that is part of Jaguar Land Rover’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, and 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,” Crotty 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.”
The next generation of Land Rover Defender is due to arrive in 2019.
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