Grenadier looks set for France as Ratcliffe bids for Daimler factory
HOPES that billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s new Grenadier 4x4 car could be built in the UK are fading after his company Ineos made a formal offer to buy a factory in France.
The tycoon is planning to take over the plant in Hambach, north-east France, from Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler – sparking fears that his plans to make a spiritual successor to the Land Rover Defender in Wales are now effectively dead.
It came as fellow carmaker BMW announced plans to axe 400 jobs at its Oxford plant that makes the Mini. Sir Jim had previously talked about building the Grenadier in the UK if it was economically sensible to do so, and had revealed plans for a vehicle assembly plant in South Wales that would create 500 jobs. The Welsh government had begun clearing land at Bridgend for the facility.
Another sub-assembly factory was planned for Portugal, offering about the same number of jobs.
But it emerged last month that Ineos – which has invested about £1bn into the Grenadier – was in talks with Daimler about taking charge of the factory near the border with Germany. The site currently makes Smart Cars. Sir Jim’s company said talks were triggered by Covid-19 as rival carmakers are forced to cut back following a collapse in sales. The German automotive business put Hambach up for sale in late June.
Ineos is confident that final terms will be agreed for the plant, which has an experienced workforce. A sale will depend on talks with unions.
In a separate blow to Britain’s car industry, BMW said that it is cutting 10pc of the 4,000-strong workforce at its Oxford Mini plant. The Cowley Road site will lose 400 of 950 agency staff employed through Gi Group as it moves from a three-shift-per-day working pattern to two in October.
This change will cut daily output at the plant by up to a fifth from current levels of about 1,000 cars. Last year the plant built 222,340 Minis, accounting for the vast majority of production.
Lower production levels will also hit BMW’s other UK sites that provide engines and parts to the Oxford factory, along with other factories around the world run by the German company.
About 100 jobs will be cut from the 1,200-strong workforce at the firm’s Hams Hall engine plant near Birmingham, along with all 20 agency roles at its Swindon pressings plant.
It has also emerged that Jaguar Land Rover will shift production of its petrol V8 engine, which is currently subcontracted to Ford. Ford has been producing the engine – used in Jaguar F-Types and Range Rovers – at a Bridgend plant scheduled to close in September.
Work will be moved to JLR’s Wolverhampton engine plant. Ford has increased output of the engine to build a stockpile for JLR to use until it resumes building in-house.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the Ineos boss, had plans to build the 4x4, a successor to the Land Rover Defender, in South Wales