Ineos Automotive says it has acquired Mercedes-Benz’s Hambach factory in France to build its new Grenadier 4x4.

The new automotive brand had initially planned to produce its first product in Wales but said it “simply could not ignore” the opportunity to purchase the Daimler plant.

“Hambach presented us with a unique opportunity that we simply could not ignore: to buy a modern automotive manufacturing facility with a world-class workforce. Ineos Automotive set out a vision to build the world’s best utilitarian 4x4, and at our new home in Hambach, we will do just that,” said Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Ineos group chairman.

With production still slated to start in “late 2021”, Ineos says the move “secures the future of the site and safeguards many jobs that might otherwise have been lost”. Interestingly, the firm furthermore says it will continue to produce the Smart EQ ForTwo and “some Mercedes-Benz components” at Hambach under contract with Daimler.

Ineos describes the Hambach plant as the “ideal facility for production of the Grenadier” and “one of Europe’s most modern automotive manufacturing sites”. In addition, the company says the site’s location on the French-German border, some 200 km from Stuttgart, provides “excellent access to supply chains, automotive talent and target markets”.

“This acquisition marks our biggest milestone yet in the development of the Grenadier. Alongside the exhaustive testing programme that our prototype vehicles are now undergoing, we can now begin preparations at Hambach to build our 4x4 from late next year for delivery to our customers around the globe,” said Dirk Heilmann, chief executive officer at Ineos Automotive.

The new Grenadier – which will also be offered in double-cab bakkie form – will be “built from the ground up on an all-new platform” (with engineering help from Magna Steyr). South Africa has already been identified as a potential market, with local sales expected to start in early 2022.

Ratcliffe came up with the idea after identifying a gap in the market (once the original Land Rover Defender went out of production) for a “stripped back, utilitarian, hard-working 4×4 engineered for modern day compliance and reliability”.

Power for the ladder-frame vehicle (which will feature solid axles) will come from BMW inline-six engines, with the automatic transmission courtesy of the folks over at ZF (there are no plans to offer a manual gearbox). The company is also exploring the idea of hydrogen power thanks to a deal with Hyundai.

Ineos promises the Grenadier will offer “best-in-class off-road capability, durability and reliability”. Expect a one-tonne payload and a braking towing capacity of 3 500 kg.