Ineos Grenadier: Welsh factory plan dropped as production moves to France

Published: 08 December 2020

New traditional 4x4 vehicle
Backed by chemical giant Ineos
 Developed by Magna, here 2021

The British 4x4 conceived as a hardcore off-roader to fill the void left by the old Land Rover Defender will now be built in France, not Wales as previously planned.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos Automotive has confirmed that the Grenadier will be built in Hambach, in a factory Ineos has bought from Mercedes-Benz. It currently produces Smart ForTwo electric cars, which Ineos will, incongruously, build alongside the Grenadier on a contract basis. 

Sir Jim said: ‘Hambach presented us with a unique opportunity that we simply could not ignore: to buy a modern automotive manufacturing facility with a world-class workforce. Ineos Automotive set out a vision to build the world’s best utilitarian 4x4, and at our new home in Hambach we will do just that.’

Production of the Grenadier will start in late 2021, with the first customers now expected to get their cars in early 2022.

Although the move deprives Ineos of the opportunity to wave the Union Jack in the face of Land Rover – which builds the new Defender in Slovakia – it does mean it can slot straight into a modern, recently upgraded factory, handily located close to the German border, just 280 miles from its engine supply.

CEO Dirk Heilman added: ‘This acqusition marks our biggest milestone yet in the development of the Grenadier. Alongside the exhaustive testing programme that our prototype vehicles are now undergoing, we can now begin preparations at Hambach to build our 4x4 from late next year for delivery to our customers around the globe.’


That means a possible 200 jobs may now go elsewhere.

Ineos Bridgend facility

‘Some new options, such as this one with the plant in Hambach, have opened up that were simply not available to us previously," Dirk Heilmann, the chief executive of Ineos Automotive told the BBC. 

‘We are therefore having another look - and reviewing whether the addition of two new manufacturing facilities is the right thing to do in the current environment.’

Ineos Grenadier: what you need to know

From the off, the Grenadier was always going to have a traditional box-section ladder frame, with beam axles, permanent four-wheel drive, lockable diffs and internal combustion engines.

Says commercial director Mark Tennant: ‘Number one focus was off-road mobility and capability. An off-road vehicle that doesn’t keep on going and providing years of faithful service isn’t really doing the job. It’s got to get you out into the bush and back again. 

‘It’s a vehicle designed first and foremost to be a working tool. Not everybody is going to work it as hard as some of the really exacting requirements some of our customers will have, but it’s got to be capable of that. 

‘You shouldn’t have to suffer, you shouldn’t be in any pain for having a utilitarian vehicle. In terms of connectivity, screens, seat comfort, room – that’s all built in. It’s not a throwback. It’s a modern vehicle built to a certain style.’

Ramp up the rugged

The styling has a level of butchness not strictly required by the ‘form over function’ ethos. It’s very boxy, with prominent wheelarches, low-ish bonnet, near-flat glass, external door hinges, rubbing strip/utility rail along the sides, asymmetrical rear doors, a ladder to the roof, exposed tie bars, tow hooks front and rear, bash plates and steel wheels.

It looks a lot like a mix of Wrangler, Defender, G-Class and Jimny, not to mention the all-new Ford Bronco.

Design chief Toby Ecuyer says: ‘We looked at other 4x4s, we looked at tractors, helicopters, all sorts of different really hard-working vehicles, and took inspiration. Then we started designing this very honest, uncomplicated vehicle.’

Buy from the best

There are two engines, a petrol and a diesel, both 3.0-litre straight-sixes from BMW. Smartly, Ineos has a deal that covers the next generation of engines as well.

Transmissions are from ZF, axles from tractor-makers Carraro, and a lot of the development work has been done by Magna, the same people who make the G-Class for Mercedes. 

The assembly process was originally intended to involve bodies and chassis being built in an Ineos plant in Portugal, before the cars were completed at the purpose-built factory in Bridgend, Wales. But the Portuguese and Welsh operations will now take place in France.

Tennant says: ‘Our peak volume we’re looking to deliver globally is in the region of 25,000 – a lot less than other manufacturers would be aiming for. That peak volume is some way off. We need a run-up. The key to this is a bit of humility and understanding that we’re not going to do it from day one.

‘We’re launching with internal combustion engines, because to deliver on the engineering blueprint we don’t think there’s another game in town right now, but like everybody we’re watching the development of technologies and infrastructure very closely.

‘What we’re doing is developing a new line of vehicles and developing a new vehicle company, a new OEM, from scratch. They’re both big investments. Ineos doesn’t do things by halves. Ineos Automotive will end up being a lot more than the Grenadier.’

Stay simple

Ecuyer explains how his team went about the job: ‘Our starting point was to collate our top utility vehicles. Also ones that had really proved themselves over the years. There was an honesty about them. There were certain words that kept coming up: assured, robust, faithful, dependable, purposeful. Whatever detail we were working on, did it tick any of these boxes?

‘Given our decision to go with a ladder chassis, a wheel in each corner, a big powerful engine and beam axles, that in itself already gives you some strict parameters to work within. We spent ages with the engineers testing wheel-travel angles, the exit and entry angles, getting all the mechanics right first, then we clad that, with this idea that you can see the structural themes running through, you can see how the doors are attached. Everything is very much on show.

‘The interior thinking is very much the same as the outside. All the electronics and essentials that you’d have in any other vehicle are there, but we’ve tried to do it in a very simple, uncomplicated, easily manageable way. All the switches you can operate wearing gloves.’

There won’t be many trim levels. But there will be a lot of options and accessories, and Ineos is working with aftermarket specialists to ensure they can offer good-quality bolt-ons.

Tennant: ‘We will have a range of accessories from the off, but we also want to be quite open-source, and allow people to affix existing accessories, to adapt things they already have in the garage to put on the vehicle. Hence the roof guttering allows people to, with minor mods, put an existing roof rack on as well as the one we will offer.

So, how much? ‘It’s not going to be cheap. Durability isn’t cheap. But G-Wagen has taken a path into the stratosphere from a price point of view. We don’t want to go there.’ 

There won’t be a traditional dealer network as such – expect a combination of experience centres, service centres and a lot of online-frst thinking.

The first Grenadier will be this wagon, followed by a shorter-wheelbase version and a double-cab pick-up with an extended wheelbase.

Check out our full story on the new Land Rover Defender

By Colin Overland

CAR's managing editor: wordsmith, critic, purveyor of fine captions