Official: Ineos confirms Bridgend factory for Grenadier 4×4

Ineos Grenadier factory

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Ineos Automotive, founded by British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe to create an “uncompromising 4×4” in the mould of the original Land Rover Defender, has confirmed that its new vehicle family will carry the name Grenadier and be built in an all-new plant in Bridgend, South Wales.

The £600 million project will utilise body and chassis parts sourced from – and painted in – a second new Ineos car plant currently being commissioned in Estarreja, Portugal, close to many established automotive suppliers.

The Grenadier name, which was chosen from an online poll of 6000 fans and followers, invokes the Knightsbridge pub where Ratcliffe, a lifelong Land Rover fan, first hatched his plan to build his own no-frills 4×4. The project has been live since early 2017. The company will unveil the completed vehicle next year, although it won’t detail the launch plans yet.

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Ineos expects its two new plants to each create around 500 new jobs once production hits full speed. Ratcliffe says the company had “lots of good options across the world” for locating the plants but chose Wales for the final assembly “as a significant expression of confidence in British manufacturing”. Ineos will eventually build 25,000 cars per year once it completes a production ramp-up from the beginning of production in 2021 and says it could do even more than that if business exceeds expectations.

Ineos says it can’t yet specify an entry price for the Grenadier, but commercial director Mark Tennant confided that the costs of current safety equipment and compliance testing are unlikely to allow Ineos to match outgoing Defender prices that started in the low-£20,000s bracket. However, he admitted to keeping a close eye on the four-seat pick-up truck market (Ineos will launch such a model), where prices for well-equipped versions currently start below £30,000. Four-seat pick-ups currently account for 60,000 sales in the UK and 200,000 across Europe.

More details of the Grenadier are fast emerging. All models will use diesel or petrol versions of BMW’s latest-spec 3.0-litre straight six engine, driving through an automatic gearbox – probably an eight-speed ZF unit. There won’t be a manual option. The suspension will be non-independent by coil-sprung live axles front and rear, a system especially designed by Ineos on the grounds of extreme durability. 

The use of such simple suspension with a tough ladder chassis and a separate body will allow a much larger-than-usual number of bodystyles to be offered, although Ineos says it won’t necessarily produce them all. CEO Dirk Heilmann is taking what he calls an open-source approach: he wants to encourage aftermarket suppliers to propose their own special equipment for the Grenadier. 

Design and engineering is progressing well, said Tennant. The marketing plan is to “get close to the customer”, he explained. “We won’t be selling cars in London’s Westfield shopping centre the way Tesla does, but we might find ourselves selling our vehicles in a field.” As in other arms of the Ineos business, the firm intends to use the abilities of partners already established in the field.

Much of the Grenadier’s engineering work is being carried out by Stuttgart-based consultancy MBTech, a former subsidiary of Daimler, with off-road testing in Austria. The emphasis is very much on off-road capability, says Tennant, although the Grenadier will have thoroughly acceptable on-road performance. 

Ineos is revealing little of Grenadier’s styling or design process, beyond the fact that it is analogue, depends a lot on clay modelling and will “make a virtue out of boxiness”. The project has just passed its exterior design freeze, but the interior is still being created, with the emphasis very much on simplicity and minimalism.   

Ineos’s experience so far leads Tennant to believe the Grenadier 4×4 models may well be the first of a family of Ineos Automotive products. “There are plenty more interesting niches,” he says. “Who knows what we’ll do next?”

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Source: Autocar

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