INEOS Automotive looks set to abandon its plans to build the new Grenadier (above) at a new production facility in Bridgend, Wales. The favoured location looks likely to be the Daimler-owned Smart factory at Hambach in France, which is now up for sale.
INEOS Automotive Chief Executive, Dirk Heilmann, said: ‘Overcapacity has long been a major issue for the automotive sector. Of course we considered this route previously but, as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, some new options such as this one with the plant in Hambach have opened up that were simply not available to us previously.’
The Bridgend plant would have created 200 new jobs, expanding to 500 once production was fully up-to speed. The Welsh Government was set to aid the venture, which was close to Ford’s engine plant, which is set to close.
Heilmann added: ‘The pandemic has had an impact on our build schedules with ground clearing works and construction held up by the social distancing measures that have been required.’
New plant in Wales looks set to be put on hold
Marketing chief Tom Crotty told CAR, ‘the Grenadier will be an uncompromising 4×4 with a ladder chassis, beam axles, locking differentials. It [will] initially be in station wagon guise, but other bodies [will] follow, starting with a twin-cab pick-up. Aftermarket specialists [are going to] be encouraged to come up with their own configurations and accessories. There will be long and short wheelbases.’
Welsh Government Economy and Transport Minister, Ken Skates previously said on the original production announcement: ‘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.’
INEOS Group Chairman 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.’
Familiar looks for new 4×4
The styling of the Grenadier off-roader is a bit familiar, being a cross of Land Rover Defender and Mercedes-Benz G-Class. It started out as an idea three years ago, and is now getting very serious indeed, with prototypes in testing, a new deal inked with Magna Steyr and a section of the market pining after a direct replacement for the original Land Rover Defender.
Built from the ground up on an all-new platform, the INEOS Grenadier has been designed on purpose: namely to meet the demands of its future owners for a rugged, capable and comfortable go-anywhere working vehicle. That it looks like a Land Rover Defender is hardly a surprise – but what is impressive is just how similar it looks.
‘The brief was simple. We set out to design a modern, functional and highly capable 4×4 vehicle with utility at its core’, said Toby Ecuyer, Head of Design. We assume his is one of the easiest jobs in the industry. He continued: ‘A design that is “easy-to-read”, with no ambiguity about the Grenadier’s role in life. There to do everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Nothing is for show. Modern engineering and production techniques ensure the Grenadier is highly capable, but we have been able to stay true to the essence of creating a utilitarian vehicle that will stand the test of time.’
INEOS Automotive has confirmed that the Austrian four-wheel drive and volume-build specialist Magna Steyr will undertake series development of the Grenadier on the company’s stamping ground of the Shöckl mountain near Graz. This is great news for anyone who thinks that INEOS will have its work cut out making the Grenadier working properly off-road – the company recently perfected the new G-Class for Mercedes-Benz there.
The company says that Magna Powertrain has been working on the chassis and suspension systems onboard since inception. The new car, which was conceived to replace the original Land Rover Defender now that Jaguar Land Rover has moved its successor upmarket, will be built in volumes of up to 25,000 per year.
A new sub-assembly plant at Estarreja in Portugal will produce the Grenadier’s body and chassis, working in conjunction with the company’s European supply chain partners. INEOS has also confirmed that the new car will be powered by BMW’s B57/B58 engine family, so each Grenadier will have a modular 3.0-litre petrol or diesel straight six which sends its drive through a ZF-supplied eight-speed automatic gearbox and a separate low-range transfer case.
And on its predictable design?
Dirk Heilmann added: ‘Showing the design now allows us to focus on the critical next phase of the vehicle’s development, testing its capability and durability. We have a very challenging programme ahead, as we put prototypes through their paces in all conditions, on the way to accumulating some 1.8 million test kilometres over the coming year. From today the covers are off. Testing ‘in plain sight’ without the need for camouflage wrapping, foam blocks or fake panels is an added benefit.’
Sir Jim Ratcliffe added: ‘The Grenadier project started by identifying a gap in the market, abandoned by a number of manufacturers, for a utilitarian off-road vehicle. This gave us our engineering blueprint for a capable, durable and reliable 4×4 built to handle the world’s harshest environments. But it had to look the part as well. As you will see today, Toby and his team have done a great job in delivering a design that is both distinctive and purposeful.’
…and apparently different enough to the Defender not to have Jaguar Land Rover’s lawyers knocking on the door!