Energy giant Ineos has unveiled plans to build a new 4x4 off road car in an investment running into hundreds of million of pounds.
The company, which employs 1,300 at its Grangemouth petrochemicals site, has completed a six-month feasibility study and said the new vehicle will be inspired by Land Rover’s iconic Defender model.
Does it have the right resources and capabilities to pursue this market?Christian Stadler
Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe, who drives a Defender, described the plans as a “fantastically exciting project”.
Ratcliffe said the company was aiming to build the world’s “purest 4x4” aimed at explorers, farmers and off-road enthusiasts.
He added: “I am a great admirer of the old Land Rover Defender and have enormous respect for its off road capability. Our new 4x4 has been inspired by it. But whilst our off-roader might share its spirit, our new car will be a major improvement on previous models.”
Ineos said the car will ideally be built in the UK and could create hundreds of jobs.
The firm said it expects to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on the project, which it believes will fill a gap in the market. The project will be run by Dirk Heilmann, formerly head of engineering and technology at Ineos, who is now chief executive at Ineos automotive.
Heilmann, who has already started recruiting staff, said: “This is an amazing project for everyone involved. Our job is to create the world’s best 4x4 and we are already moving forward with our plans.”
But management expert professor Christian Stadler, of Warwick Business School, warned that competition in the car industry is ferocious and that Ineos could be “falling into a common trap”.
“It has looked at the car market and seen an exciting opportunity, but what it is forgetting is it needs to consider if it is the right company to pursue the gap in the market. Does it have the right resources and capabilities to pursue this market?” he asked.
Conceived in 1947, the Land Rover broke the mould as the go-anywhere, multipurpose vehicle and became the vehicle of choice for farmers and armies across the world.
Rechristened the Defender in 1990, in 2013 owners Jaguar Land Rover announced that production would end after a continuous run of 67 years.
The last Defender rolled off the production line in January 2016 and the company has said it is planning to launch a replacement although no firm plans have been announced.