When Sir Jim Ratcliffe first discussed his own line of simpler-than-the-Defender 4x4s in earnest, the idea that a company with no experience of building cars from a standing start – and doing it economically – seemed difficult to swallow.
If it looked like that, it doesn’t now. Ineos Automotive has assembled a management team of convincing experts who have plausible answers to all the key questions except one (we’ll come to it). And they’re talking about the kind of vehicle that many people find desirable, in an arena abandoned by Land Rover in its unquenchable zeal to build premium vehicles.
In the words of a friend of mine, a farmer who never drives anything but his Defender: “I need something that will carry a ram, a dog, a chainsaw and several bales of straw, go up steep hills in snow, never ground out, tow 3.5 tonnes, push aside brambles and be power-washable inside. I want a really good tool, the kind you treasure but that won’t break when you drop it. If they do that, and it doesn’t get nice-ified, I want one…”
That lingering question? Ineos has said ominously little about the styling and who’s doing it. It cites the new Jeep Gladiator as a rival, appearing not to notice how carefully and cleverly that pick-up has been styled.
If I were a betting man, I’d say Sir Jim is having a bit of a go himself. And he might be good at it; who knows? Sir William Lyons was, but he wouldn’t have been able to do what Jaguar’s designers do today. Anyhow, it all makes the already-fascinating reveal moment that much more exciting. Roll on 2020!