Ineos Automotive has confirmed it is in “detailed discussions” with Mercedes-Benz about the acquisition of the German firm’s Hambach plant in France.

The recently revealed Grenadier was expected to go into production in “late 2021” in Wales, with a site planned for Portugal as well. However, Ineos says it has now “suspended work” on its facility in Wales “pending the outcome of these discussions”.

The Hambach factory, which is where Daimler currently builds the Smart EQ ForTwo, recently gained a new “dedicated SUV line”, which Ineos says makes it “ideally suited” to the production of the Grenadier.

Ineos said it was “assessing the option” of utilising existing capacity within the industry, as an alternative to building its own plants.

“Overcapacity has long been a major issue for the automotive sector,” said Dirk Heilmann, CEO of Ineos Automotive. “Of course we considered this route previously, but as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic some new options such as this one with the plant in Hambach have opened up that were simply not available to us previously.

“We are therefore having another look – and reviewing whether the addition of two new manufacturing facilities is the right thing to do in the current environment.”

Ineos said it expected to complete its review of these options “in the next few weeks”.

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.

Ineos Group CEO Sir Jim 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 a detuned BMW inline-six engine, with the automatic transmission courtesy of the folks over at ZF (there are no plans to offer a manual gearbox). 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.