► New traditional 4x4 vehicle planned
► Backed by chemical giant Ineos
► New Grenadier is coming in 2021
It started with a boozy ‘what if’ conversation in a pub, but now the British-built Ineos Automotive Grenadier has got very real. The factory in South Wales it will be built in is already under construction, and prototypes are being tested in Austria. We’ll see the car this time next year, with sales expected to start in 2021. And already there’s talk of the second generation – with a hydrogen fuel cell version being considered.
It’s the brainchild of chemicals billioniare Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who saw a gap in the market after Land Rover ended production of the last Defender three years ago. His vision was a rugged 4x4 in the same spirit as the Defender – a tool for farmers, foresters and aid agencies, not a fashion statement.
Where is Grenadier being built?
Ratcliffe’s team have now announced that an all-new, purpose-built factory is under construction in Bridgend – the South Wales town hit by Ford’s announcement that it’s closing its engine plant. The Welsh government has helped Ineos acquire the site, and will help with training the staff – up to 500, eventually – as well as making a financial contribution.
CEO Dirk Heilmann said that the whole project involed a £600m investment – the proportion of that coming from the public purse ‘will be very small’.
Commercial director Mark Tennant explained: ‘We'll be building the Grenadier in Britain. We're delighted to come to that conclusion after a very extensive process of evaluation, in Europe and beyond. The desire was always to build in the UK; the commercials had to make sense.
Development is already underway. We have broken ground and there's lots of diggers running around.’ In four years it could be producing as many as 25,000 Grenadiers a year.
Marketing chief Tom Crotty added: ‘What's happened in Bridgend is a disaster for the area. But from our point of view it does create an opportunity: there are a lot of very skilled people.’
Although final assembly will be done at Bridgend, the engines and transmissions – current BMW 3.0-litre straight-six petrols and diesels – will be shipped in from Germany, and the body panels and other parts will arriive already painted from a new plant being developed in parallel in Estarreja, Portugal. ‘It's very much a pan-European supply base,’ said Tennant.
Tell me more about the 4x4…
He said the Grenadier will be an ‘uncompromising 4x4 with a ladder chassis, beam axles, locking differentials.’ It would initially be in station wagon guise, but other bodies would follow, starting with a twin-cab pick-up. Aftermarket specialists would be encouraged to come up with their own configurations and accessories. There will be long and short wheelbases.
Tennant said: ‘We're dropping the S from SUV. It's a utility vehicle. A working tool. It may be more lifestyle in the USA, where it might be used at the weekend as well as in the working week, towing a horse box or a jet ski.
Expect its dimensions to be roughly the same as the old Defender, with short overhangs. It will be narrower than the current BMW X5, and low enough to fit into a typical garage.
What about cleaner powertrains?
Ineos thinks hybrids and plug-in electric are not the answer. ‘It’s not just the weight, but there aren't many chargers in the Australian outback. We're already beginning to look at hydrogen fuel cells, with Innovate UK help,’ said Tennant. ‘As a company we already supply hydrogen to buses, small trucks. We've built up a bit of expertise and see it as a good solution. In 2026, could we? Yes. Will we? Don't know.’
How will it look?
‘We've got to get that right. We've contracted some specialists in Germany. We're now testing that design on potential customers. We're making a virtue of boxiness,’ said Tennant.
And the interior? ‘We want to keep it as simple as possible. But we also have to be aware of our customers’ expectations. The 21st century hammer involves plugging something in. We will meet all the regulations. We will have an abundance of USB sockets, we will have Bluetooth. But we won’t have tech for its own sake. This vehicle needs to be self-reliant in the field and incredibly reliable.’
What about the new Defender?
They say its unveiling confirmed their view that Land Rover had moved out of the pure-utility market.
‘It's a great looking vehicle and we wish them every success, but we don't see them filling the same space,’ said Tennant.
How much will the Grenadier cost?
Tennant said: ‘We can't get to the price the old Defender was. It will be above that.’
Check out our full story on the new Land Rover Defender