Ratcliffe con­sid­ers Welsh U-turn to build heir to De­fender in France

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Alan Tovey

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.

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