Ratcliffe considers Welsh U-turn to build heir to Defender in France
INDUSTRIAL tycoon Sir Jim Ratcliffe could ditch plans to build a new offroad vehicle in the UK after beginning talks over a factory in France.
His company, Ineos Automotive, is in talks with Daimler about taking over its car plant in Hambach to make the Grenadier 4x4, dealing a blow to hopes of a new British carmaker. Sir Jim has previously spoken of his desire to make the new car in the UK and last year unveiled plans to build a factory in Bridgend, South Wales, that would eventually employ about 500 people.
The rugged vehicle has been billed as the spiritual successor to the original Land Rover Defender.
Ineos has pumped almost £1bn into developing the Grenadier, and the Welsh government had begun clearing the site in preparation tion for construction. The vehicle was unveiled last week.
Similar activity is under way at a sub-assembly plant t in Portugal, which h would also create te about 500 jobs. However, Ineos said that “opportunities thrown up by Covid-19” Covidmean it is now investigating inv a deal to buy bu the Hambach plant p from Mercedes owner o Daimler. It emerged that the Smart Car factory was up for sale last week. If a deal is agreed, the Welsh and Portuguese sites would be abandoned, with all production work on the Grenadier taking place in France.
An existing plant could reduce the cost of building the Grenadier.
Car industry experts said Ineos’s potential about-turn on UK production highlighted problems raised by the Welsh and Portuguese set-up. Ian
Henry, a consultant with AutoAnalysis, said: “I cannot understand why Ineos would make the chassis sub-assembly in Portugal and ship it to Wales. These are big, heavy lumps of metal. Moving them around would add cost and complexity compared with a single site.”
Hambach has already been kitted out by Daimler to build a large SUV, which could be an attraction for Ineos.