Ineos to reawaken the Land Rover Defender
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Major investment in new 4x4
Petrochemicals giant Ineos has released details of its ambitious plan to build a new “uncompromising” 4x4 in the spirit of the Land Rover Defender.
The plan is the brainchild of Ineos’ British billionaire chairman Jim Ratcliffe and was rumoured last year when Jaguar Land Rover halted production of the iconic off-road vehicle at its plant in the West Midlands.
Now, after completing a six-month feasibility study, Ineos said it is prepared to invest “many hundreds of millions” to achieve Ratcliffe’s vision.
It was made clear this was not intended as a vanity project. A statement on Ineos’ website said its car would “not only fill a gap in the market vacated by the Defender, but also provide a step-change improvement in build quality and reliability.”
Ratcliffe, 64, called the plan fantastically exciting.
He said that, like the Defender before it, the 4x4 would target practical and recreational users including “explorers, farmers and off-road enthusiasts across the globe”.
The Manchester-born businessman added: “I am a great admirer of the old Land Rover Defender and have enormous respect for its off-road capability. But while our off-roader might share its spirit, our new car will be a major improvement on previous models.”
Ineos also fired a warning shot at other 4x4s on the market, saying its vehicle would offer an alternative to “the current crop of standardised ‘jelly-mould’ SUVs”.
Production of the original Land Rover Series I began at the carmaker’s Lode Lane facility in 1947 ahead of its launch at the Amsterdam Motor Show on 30 April 1948.
After that more more than two million examples of the Series I, II III and Defender were produced at Solihull. But production ended in January 2016, as Land Rover stopped making the iconic vehicle.
The two-millionth Defender, specially designed and built by the British carmaker with the help of a raft of brand ambassadors and people from Land Rover’s history, including Bear Grylls and Virginia McKenna OBE, was auctioned in December 2015. The winning bidder paid NZ$692,000 for the car.
The vehicle boasted bespoke finishing features including an engraved map of Red Wharf Bay (where the design for the original Land Rover was first drawn in the sand).
The announcement last week represents a major change of tack for Ineos, which last year announced its intention to move to the UK from Switzerland. The company principally produces chemicals for use in plastics, technology, medicines and other products.
But in recent years it has expanded across the energy sector, investing heavily in the UK. The next stage of its attempt to develop a market-leading off-roader will be led by Ineos Automotive.
Its CEO, Dirk Heilmann, said: “Our job is to create the world’s best 4x4 and we are already moving forward with our plans.”
Those plans include recruiting a team of automotive experts and deciding where the vehicle will be built.
Spokesman Tom Crotty said Ineos would prefer that to be in the North of England, although other European options would also be considered.