One of the biggest chemical companies in the world, with absolutely no history in vehicle manufacturing, is aiming to build a traditional off-road workhorse similar to the iconic Land Rover Defender.
On the face of it, you might be tempted to swat away the plans of Ineos as a publicity stunt, but the company is keen to stress its plans are sincere and credible.
Owner Jim Ratcliffe is a huge admirer of the Defender, and the orders came down from him to start work on a model that pays homage to the off-roader following the end of its production last year.
Ratcliffe spotted a gap in the market, and his love for the Defender made him want to replace it. He and his company saw creating such a car as a business venture worth pursuing.
“It’s definitely not a publicity stunt,” Ineos director Tom Crotty assured me. “It’s a serious project. We are approaching it from the point of view of enthusiasts.”
But the nature of an undertaking like this – particularly for a novice in the car industry that will have to invest millions of pounds to make it happen – is inherently risky. So, was there any opposition from within the company regarding Ratcliffe’s outlandish plans?
“None at all. We’ve not even really met opposition outside of the company,” Crotty explained. “People probably think we’re crazy because we’re not in the car industry.
“But we are manufacturers; a lot of the principles are the same.”
Ineos is ambitious with the timeframe for this. Crotty says because Ineos is a private company it can move fast, and it plans for the Defender-inspired model to be on the roads by 2020.
The chemical company’s successful importation of gas from America to Europe shows it can realise big ambitions quickly – that plan was conceived in 2012 and delivered in 2016. But the car industry represents a completely different challenge and there are still many hurdles to overcome, chiefly finalising a design and then building a factory to make it.
Ineos has already begun recruitment for its newly found automotive sector, and those appointments will be crucial. Enthusiasm created this project, but it needs expertise to make a success of it.