Caution advised for Ineos, with plans for its purpose-built 4×4
To be named ‘Grenadier’, after the pub in which it was conceived, writes Iain Robertson, this is the intended ‘rebuttal’ new model built to compete head-on with the Land Rover Defender, which has brave plans to make one man’s dream a reality.
In a much-publicised fit of ire, following a failed attempt to acquire Land Rover’s permission to continue building the Defender model around four years ago, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, commonly regarded as the UK’s most successful, post-war industrialist, is not averse to tackling high-risk issues. Rest assured, you may not have heard about him but there is scarcely an everyday product used in your home, or workplace, in which his company has not played a part.
Having stated that, it is not unusual for British industrialists to become involved in the motor industry. The last one of note was Peter Wheeler, an oilman, who invested in Blackpool-based TVR sportscars. His ‘unusual’ management style, which allowed his pet dog to chew on a plastic toy that led to a new front bumper design for the Chimaera model, or to treat customers as ‘a necessary evil’ to selling his motorcars, certainly created an aura about the company. Ironically, TVR products, which were surprisingly well-loved, were also notoriously unreliable and Mr Wheeler’s attitude towards customer complaints was to tell them in the most florid language that he was right and they were wrong! TVR has all but disappeared from the market, despite a couple of ‘failed’ attempts to relaunch it.
When Sir Jim attempted to acquire the rights to recommence assembly of the Land Rover Defender, his pleas landed on stony ground. Land Rover may well have given the impression that it was deserting its core product line but, as we know from the recent re-introduction of a most exciting new Defender, it had plans to redevelop the vehicle for a ‘new age’. Speaking with him at the time, it was abundantly clear that his approach was based entirely on his personal enthusiasm and drive. He was very upset by Land Rover’s reluctance to licence its Defender to Ineos.
Ineos is a major, financially secure, multi-national chemicals concern; it has confirmed that the Grenadier, the response to the traditional Defender, will be built in bespoke new facilities at Bridgend, South Wales. An area hit heavily by unemployment and redundancies, not just by Tata Steel but also Ford Motor Company, it will benefit from around 200 jobs to be created initially, with up to 500 further roles in the longer term, as vehicle production is ramped up to commence in 2021.
As the Group Chairman, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, told us: “Our decision to build in the UK is a significant expression of confidence in British manufacturing, which has always been at the heart of what Ineos stands for.”
In 2017, Sir Jim, a car enthusiast and experienced adventurer, identified a gap in the market for a stripped back, utilitarian, hard-working 4×4 engineered for modern day compliance and reliability. Ineos Automotive Ltd was formed and a senior team of automotive professionals assembled to bring the vision to reality with a fresh perspective on 4×4 development and manufacturing.
Combining rugged British spirit with German engineering rigour (BMW), the Grenadier is intended to be uncompromising but engineered to overcome all conditions and it is intended that it will provide best-in-class off-road capabilities, durability and reliability to international customers depending on a vehicle as a working tool. On the engineering front, Ineos is moving into series development, with announcements on appointed suppliers and partners to be made in the coming months.
Ineos Automotive is a subsidiary of Ineos Group (www.ineos.com), as mentioned earlier, a leading manufacturer of petrochemicals, speciality chemicals and oil products. It employs 22,000 people across 34 businesses, with a production network spanning 183 manufacturing facilities in 26 countries. From paints to plastics, textiles to technology, medicines to mobile phones, materials manufactured by Ineos enhance almost every aspect of modern life. In 2018, Ineos had sales of around $60bn and EBITDA of around $6bn.
Ineos Automotive has confirmed that it will be investing in parallel in a sub-assembly plant in Estarreja, Portugal. The facility will produce the Grenadier’s body and chassis, working in conjunction with INEOS’s European supply chain partners.
Dirk Heilmann, CEO of Ineos Automotive, commented: “Confirming production in the UK, as well as our investment in Portugal, is a major milestone for the project. We are progressing strongly with the design and engineering work, as well as our marketing and distribution plans. In the months ahead, we look forward to sharing more information about the Grenadier, and engaging with local suppliers, the community and region.”
For a new brand that was developed off the back of JLR’s decision to cease Defender production around four years ago, Ineos needs to be careful that its future is not based purely on an emotional and romantic reaction arising from Sir Jim’s failed desire to acquire the former Defender production line hardware. Making vehicles can be a most effective money sluice and the present state of the vehicle market could be described as friable.
Yet, as highlighted in previous 4×4 features, there are only four true, off-road capable rivals to the Ineos Grenadier: Suzuki Jimny, Land Rover Defender, Toyota Land-Cruiser and Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen. The last attempt, by Stonefield, to compete in this niche market, with an ultra-capable off-roader, ended sadly in failure. Naturally, we wish Ineos every success in its future venture, as the choice of a genuine, purpose-built 4×4 is restricted to the aforementioned handful of vehicle manufacturers worldwide. Well-judged pricing and customer support will be as critical as total dependability to Ineos’s future prospects.