One of Britain’s richest men, Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s no-frills 4×4, the Grenadier, will be built in the UK – creating up to 500 jobs, it was confirmed today.
The British billionaire’s Ineos Automotive Grenadier – named after the pub in Knightsbridge where the idea for the vehicle was originally conceived – will be manufactured at a state-of-the-art facility in Bridgend, South Wales.
Billed as embodying the spirit of the original Land Rover Defender, the back-to-basics Grenadier will get a Made in Britain stamp, despite the ramifications of Britain being due to leave the EU in a matter of weeks.
The new site, which is a stone’s throw from Ford’s soon-to-close engine plant, is a vote of confidence in British car making from the billionaire who supported Brexit and will provide up to 500 new jobs in the area, with production due to begin in 2021.
New UK automotive jobs: Ineos Automotive has confirmed it will build a new ‘state-of-the-art’ facility in Bidgend, Wales, to assemble its forthcoming Grenadier 4×4
A deal has been struck between Ineos and the Welsh government over the site in Bridgend – the same town where Ford is due to close its engine factory, costing around 1,700 jobs.
Bosses confirmed on Wednesday that the start-up car-maker is pumping £600million into the project, with some investment also coming from the Welsh government along with support to fast-track the new facility’s set-up.
Development for the bespoke plant has already begun, with the greenfield site leveled and roads laid for access, according to bosses.
Confirming the news this afternoon, Sir Jim Ratcliffe said: ‘We have looked long and hard at possible manufacturing locations for Grenadier across the world with lots of good options to choose from.
‘The 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.’
Ineos said it had considered several manufacturing locations in the UK and in Europe for the car but Bridgend made ‘aspirational’ and ‘economical’ sense, despite the looming impact of Brexit.
The plant will create 200 new jobs initially, expanding to 500 once production ramps up. Ford’s due-to-close engine plant is the building you can see in the top right of this image
Ineos boss and billionaire, Sir Jim Ratcliffe (pictured), said the Grenadier will be the ‘spiritual successor’ to the Land Rover Defender
Ford’s Bridgend plant is due to close in autumn 2020, costing around 1,700 local jobs
Dirk Heilmann, ceo of Ineos Automotive said the Ford factory closure was ‘unfortunate’ but the stated that the firm had ‘already been looking at the location prior to the sad news [about Ford job losses] breaking’.
The factory will be built from scratch and initially create 200 new jobs, with up to 500 projected once full production ramps up.
With operations due to get underway next year, the location will offer a new opportunity for some of the area’s skilled automotive workers who’ll be out of employment from autumn 2020.
Welsh government economy and transport minister, Ken Skates, said the announcement is ‘great news for Wales’ and will continue Bridgend’s ‘long history of skilled manufacturing expertise’.
He added: ‘The Welsh Government has worked closely with the company to make this happen and I look forward to seeing the development of the new site progress ahead of the planned start of production in 2021.’
Financial support from the Welsh government is dependent on Ineos’ ongoing investment and the number of jobs it creates, bosses said in a pre-announcement meeting.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe has been a keen Brexiteer
Tom Crotty, corporate affairs director for Ineos group, said the cheque from the Welsh government ‘wasn’t particularly large in the grand scheme of things’ but it had made a significant effort to help ‘clear the way to make the project happen’.
Crotty also added that prime minister Boris Johnson had sent a message of support in the early hours before the news was made public.
He was quoted to have said: ‘Today’s announcement for Ineos will deliver hundreds of new jobs in Bridgend and is a vote of confidence in UK expertise making sure we keep our status as a pioneer in new vehicle technologies.’
Ineos confirmed the investment would also be used for a ‘sub-assembly plant’ in Estarreja, Portugal, which will create a similar number of new jobs to Bridgend.
The Iberian facility will produce the frames and body components for the vehicles that will be shipped to the Wales plant for vehicle assembly, along with BMW engines produced in Austria – a decision made in light of possible disruptions caused by Britain’s planned departure from the EU on October 31.
‘We’ve done this whole project with Brexit hanging over us,’ Cotty said.
‘We launched this project in January 2017, six months after the referendum. So we’ve known Brexit uncertainty and assumed that in all our planning.
‘To be honest, whatever happens, it happens – we can still make this work, and we think we can make it work successfully.’
What does Ineos Automotive think of the new LR Defender?
Tom Crotty, cooperate affairs director for Ineos group
‘The new Defender is a great vehicle and will be very successful for JLR.
‘I think they’ve produced a very nice vehicle but it’s not what we’re making.
‘We’re making a traditional ladder-frame chassis, body-on-chassis, rigid axles model – that’s not what the new Defender is.
‘It’s a very different sector of the market.’
When asked about the potential for a Brexit no-deal and the enforcement of World Trade Organisation rules, which would see a 10 per cent tax put on vehicles, he added: ‘Our calculations show we have the ability to manage through that situation, so it’s just not an issue for us. We’re ignoring it.
‘To be honest, you’d need a cray supercomputer to work through all the potential scenarios. We believe we can manage whatever happens.’
Ineos Automotive is targeting sales of around 25,000 units annually once production of the ‘uncompromising 4×4’ was reached by the third or fourth year.
The UK and US are key markets for the car, as well Africa and Australia.
Bosses confirmed the vehicle itself won’t be revealed for another 12 months.
Prices have yet to be confirmed, though commercial director Mark Tennant said a double-cab pick-up version would be roughly around the same price as Europe’s top-selling Ford Ranger Wildtrak twin-cab pick-up truck, which costs from around £30,000 – some £10,000 less than Land Rover’s recently revealed next-generation Defender.
The name ‘Grenadier’ – taken from the pub around the corner from Ineos’ UK head office – was also confirmed today, with plans for the vehicle until now being referred to as ‘Projekt Grenadier’.
It will carry the name after a vote by more than 6,000 international fans and followers who responded to an online poll.
The name Grenadier will be used for the vehicle, as voted for in a poll by fans
Stuart Apperley, director and head of UK automotive at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said Ineos’ decision to assemble the new vehicle in the UK is a ‘welcome tonic for the sector given the headwinds manufacturers have faced’.
However, he warned: ‘Automotive is a notoriously tough industry for new entrants to break into and many will be watching with great interest to see how the business fairs, albeit Ineos has an impressive business track record.
‘While the timing may be seen as bold, Ineos’ presence should provide a major boost for the economy in South Wales.
‘With Aston Martin now operating nearby in St Athan, there is the potential to create a high-value manufacturing cluster in the area, with all the positive knock-on benefits that would bring for the jobs market and development of the supply chain.’
What do we know about the Ineos Automotive Grenadier so far?
The vehicle will be a back-to-basics and uncompromising 4×4. Ineos wants to drop the ‘S’ from SUV, saying it’s a ‘dedicated utility vehicle first and foremost’.
It will feature a ladder chassis and body-on-frame construction, similar to the original Defender.
Tis design will be ‘best for durability, repairability in the field and offroading fundamentally,’ says Tennant.
He added: ‘It will have beam axles, locking differentials and be available as a range of products. There’ll definitely be a pick-up truck.’
That’s not to say it will be entirely rudimentary. Bosses promise it will have all the ‘crucial technology’ that vehicles on sale today must have in terms of safety systems and regulatory requirements. But Tennant added that extra tech would only be ‘what the customers we’re targeting need’.
The vehicle will be ‘fairly light’ and have a towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes and a one-tonne payload – ideal for those encountering difficult terrain daily or needing to transport horse boxes or boats.
Importantly for Grenadier’s key customers, they will be able to hose out the interior floor and other parts of the cabin.
There’ll be one petrol and one diesel engine available from launch, both BMW straight-six-cylinder powerplants.
‘They’re the latest and most efficient engines available, and also reliable and can be tuned to provide enough torque for off-road use,’ Inoes said.
Heilmann added: ‘The gearbox will be automatic, though it might be available with a low-range manual – at the moment, it’s too early to confirm.’
As for the future, the niche car maker doesn’t think electrification will be right for their product due to the extra weight of batteries.
Tennant told This is Money: ‘Longer term, we are putting a lot of focus on hydrogen fuel cell as a possibility.
‘We’re in quite early stages but we’re working on a feasibility study for off-road and heavy-duty vehicles, which UK government has been supportive [and helped fund].’
‘We do think that, longer term, the automotive business will simply be battery-electric vehicles. That might be right for smaller, lighter, cars but won’t be suitable for this class of vehicle.’
Ineos is the UK’s – and Europe’s – biggest producer of hydrogen, so is unsurprisingly keen to see fuel cells in the automotive sphere develop.
‘We see hydrogen as a really viable technology, especially for this type of vehicle,’ Tennant adds.
‘We already supply a lot of commercial fleets today, such as buses. For us, that looks like a much better technology option that pure electric.’
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