Billionaire Jim Ratcliffe's British chemistry group Ineos on Wednesday unveiled the outline of its 4×4, which marks its risky entry into an auto industry in the doldrums due to the pandemic. This is a new diversification for the group, which has long been discreet but is now trying to make a name with the general public. Ineos is investing around 1 billion pounds in the launch of this 4×4, named Grenadier, after the name of the pub in which the project was born in 2017. Jim Ratcliffe's ambition was to give a successor to the Defender of the Jaguar Land Rover group, which had stopped production in 2016 before relaunching it very recently with mixed success for the time being.
"The task of building a brand and making it known is quite ambitious. The sooner we start, the better," said Dirk Heilmann, managing director of Ineos Automotive, the group's automotive branch, in an online presentation. . The Grenadier, presented Wednesday in a metallic gray version and with a discreet Ineos logo on the hood, is an all-terrain vehicle, designed for family trips or daily trips. The group has not yet revealed the interior of the vehicle.
Production of the vehicle is expected to start sometime next year at the Bridgend plant in Wales. It is precisely in this city that Ford must close this year an engine factory which employs 1,700 people. The 4×4 assembled at Bridgend will include a BMW engine made in Germany and a chassis designed in Portugal. Its arrival on the market is scheduled for the end of 2021, first in Europe and later in the rest of the world. The group hopes to manufacture 25,000 vehicles a year at full capacity within a few years. However, no price has been announced yet, but Ineos warned that the car would be neither cheap nor at the top of the range. The Financial Times recently mentioned a starting price of £ 30,000.
A niche market
And Ineos will wait before launching a "clean" version of the car which will be petrol and diesel initially. "The time has not yet come. The energy storage and the battery do not allow for sufficient autonomy," said Heilmann. The design of the Ineos 4×4 comes as the automotive sector is going through one of the worst crises in its history due to the shock of the pandemic from which it will take years to recover. In the United Kingdom, social plans are multiplying, so that professionals are pressing the government to intervene. And the British sector also fears a Brexit without agreement at the end of 2020 which would result in the re-establishment of customs duties between the United Kingdom and the continent.
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"It's a very difficult time for the automotive industry" but "the car has already been designed and if there starts to be demand it makes sense to move on to the production phase", explains AFP Peter Wells, professor at the University of Cardiff. The context did not move back Jim Ratcliffe, one of the richest men in the United Kingdom and who had not hesitated to be put in scene in a video driving a 4×4 in the countryside to sell the pleasures of driving off the beaten track. He built, through acquisitions, a multinational chemical company which employs 22,000 people with some 183 factories in 26 countries, for an annual turnover of 60 billion dollars.
Passionate about sports, the businessman bought the Nice football club and Ineos is the head of the most powerful cycling team in the world. The automobile adventure, however, did not always succeed for British billionaires. In October 2019, the British inventor James Dyson, pro-Brexit like Jim Ratcliffe and known for his products in household appliances, decided to abandon his ambitious project to manufacture electric cars in the face of too stiff competition. For Wells, Ineos' car "may seem dated and ill-suited to the emergence of low-carbon cars" but "it is a niche market and it will not be subject to the same competition as that of the Dyson electric car ".
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