Ineos the world-wide chemical company, is to build a Land Rover Defender type vehicle even after the talk was dished last year. It could also hold a hybrid or electric powertrain.
The company has never made a vehicle, but with the formation of INEOS Automotive, the company is setting its sights on the industry, especially the the utilitarian 4×4 segment. Their new truck could make production by 2020, with Ineos targeting worldwide sales of around 15,000 units a year. Prices are set to stick closely to those of the outgoing Defender, starting at £25,000.
Ineos has outlined its vision for its Defender inspired car, calling it an “uncompromising, traditional 4×4” to be sold globally but particularly targeting the US, Africa and Europe.
Much of the design and powertrain options are still to be decided, but it is likely to have a diesel option, while hybrid and electric technology is being explored.
It has also been mentioned that a traditional ladder chassis will be the platform the vehicle will be built on. Quality and reliability are the main factors to be engineered in to the build.
An Ineos spokesman said “We’re looking at a range of options for powertrains,” he added. “Hybrid technology could well be on the cards, especially because it would help with emission management, but we would want it to retain its off-road values. Pure EV is also a possibility; we’re looking at everything and haven’t closed anything off. I’d be very surprised if a diesel option wasn’t part of that”.
Ineos is looking at a timescale of three years before its vehicle is on the roads, with time needed to develop the design and build a factory from scratch.
Ineos is keeping the name for its truck under wraps, but it is decided.
As for appearance, “It won’t be a modern SUV, it will be much more like an old style very rugged off roader, with the Defender spirit”.
Ineos is one of the world’s largest manufacturers, but it will be the first time it has produced a vehicle.
The project will be headed up by Dirk Heilmann, former head of engineering and technology at Ineos. Heilmann, now boss of the newly formed Ineos Automotive, is currently recruiting a team of “automotive experts”.
The company accepted that the project is a risk but it is determined to make it a profitable success.
“There’s risk in everything you do, but we can manage that risk. We are manufacturers, we know what we’re doing and we know we need high quality from the people in the industry.”
We previously reported that the company, headed by billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, was considering building a Defender replica and was carrying out a feasibility study to see if the model was economically viable for production.
With the feasibility study now complete and the plans confirmed, the firm said it is prepared to invest “many hundreds of millions” in making the new vehicle, and hopes this can be done in the UK.
While Ineos aims to build its own factory for this project, Ineos is talking to a number of manufacturers with regards to striking a deal to obtain parts for the new 4×4.
Boss Jim Ratcliffe is a big fan of the Defender and was behind the company’s move to make its own model.
“This is a fantastically exciting project,” Ratcliffe said. “We want to build the world’s purest 4×4 and are aiming it at explorers, farmers and off-road enthusiasts across the globe.”
The firm said it “is determined that the vehicle will not only fill a gap in the market vacated by the Defender but also provide improvement in build quality and reliability”.
It added that a suitable manufacturing location was the next phase of the project and the company will look at UK sites alongside other European options.
Ratcliffe added: “I am a great admirer of the old Land Rover Defender and have enormous respect for its off-road capability, and our new 4×4 vehicle has been inspired by it. But while our off-roader might share its spirit, our new car will be a major improvement on previous models.”
Jaguar Land Rover is fiercely protective of its Defender. In December last year, it prevented a Canadian company using the name Defender for an all-terrain vehicle.
At the time, Jaguar Land Rover legal boss Keith Benjamin said: “The Land Rover Defender is an iconic vehicle that is part of Jaguar Land Rover’s past, present and future. The success of our business is based on unique design and engineering attributes, and we intend to protect the brand robustly around the world.”
Ineos have informed JLR of its plans, and there was no conflict between the two parties during talks,“there have been no fallings out, just sensible conversation,” it was said.
“We’re not out to produce a copy, we’re out to produce a new vehicle that is filling a space that the Defender used to fill.”