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.
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.’