This Billionaire Couldn’t Save the Defender, So He’s Producing the Grenadier
Industrialist Jim Ratcliffe hopes to blow Land Rover out of the water
When Land Rover stopped production of the iconic Defender in January of 2016, Brits and 4×4 enthusiasts alike were distraught. The mourners included Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a chemical magnate and industrialist who, as Bloomberg notes, is “the U.K.’s richest man with a $20 billion fortune.” But instead of wallowing in self-pity, Ratcliffe tried to buy the rights to keep building the Defender in the U.K.
That didn’t pan out, partly because Jaguar Land Rover released a redesigned Defender in September 2019. But JLR’s new off-roader has faced criticism that it isn’t faithful to the original design, to its country (production has moved from Solihull, England to Nitra, Slovakia) or to its heritage (starting around $50K, it’s more luxury and less pragmatism).
Instead of accepting that outcome, Ratcliffe is building his own version of the Defender. It’s called the Grenadier, and this week Ineos Automotive offered a first look at the new SUV’s design.
“The Grenadier project started by identifying a gap in the market, abandoned by a number of manufacturers, for a utilitarian off-road vehicle,” Ratcliffe said in a statement. “This gave us our engineering blueprint for a capable, durable and reliable 4×4 built to handle the world’s harshest environments. But it had to look the part as well.”
The look, as exterior shots show (no interior photos were provided), brings back the boxy Defender silhouette that defined the 4×4 for decades but was lost in the redesign. In terms of modern likenesses, it has a hint of G-Wagen. Although, unlike that luxury ride, Ineos Automotive describes the Grenadier as a “working tool for farmers, foresters, explorers and aid workers.”
In terms of solving the other two grievances, as Bloomberg reported, “[Ineos] plans to assemble the Grenadier at a new factory in Bridgend, Wales, close to a Ford Motor Co. engine plant earmarked for closure,” which would satisfy the Britain-made component. Some outlets are speculating on price, but nothing has been confirmed.
Even the availability date is up in the air, which isn’t surprising considering the pandemic. Bloomberg forecasts the first sales in 2022, but Ineos Automotive says 2021 on its website. If anything, revealing the design during massive upheaval in the rest of the automotive industry is a promising sign that the burgeoning brand is willing to stick it out.
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