Saturday, May 8, 2021

Ineos founder’s Land Rover rival faces launch delay due to Covid lockdowns | Automotive industry

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The Land Rover-rival being built by the billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe may be delayed by up to six months amid difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ineos, the chemicals company founded by Ratcliffe, had planned to deliver the first of the new Grenadier vehicles in early 2022, but is now considering a new launch date around September 2022, the Guardian understands.

The boxy 4×4 is modelled on the classic Land Rover Defender. Ratcliffe, a car enthusiast and one of Britain’s richest men with a £12bn fortune, chose the name Grenadier in honour of the London pub in which he first had the idea of creating a successor, after Jaguar Land Rover stopped production of the rugged, old-style Defender in 2016. Ineos has never before built cars.

Ineos Automotive said the company was “on track” with the Grenadier but “still talking about timelines” because of difficulties sourcing some parts during the pandemic.

The spokesperson said: “Like many automotive manufacturers, we are continually assessing the ongoing impact of these unprecedented times and will share any updates in due course. In the meantime, we don’t comment on speculation or rumour.’’

Carmakers around the world have struggled with supply chain issues for more than a year as the pandemic has forced factories to close temporarily, caused delivery delays, and disrupted the usual timetables for manufacturing products.

Shortages of computer chips used to power cars’ on-board computers have caused particular problems, forcing firms including Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen to pause production. Ineos declined to comment on whether semiconductors were an issue.

A source with knowledge of plans said the company was aiming for pre-production of the first testing models of the Grenadier in autumn 2021, followed by a market launch that could come in autumn 2022.

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Ineos is building the Grenadier at a plant in Hambach, eastern France. Ratcliffe, a vocal proponent of the UK leaving the EU who is resident in Monaco for tax purposes, had previously planned to “retain the Britishness” and build the car in Bridgend, south Wales.

However, Ineos then snapped up the Hambach factory, which previously made Smart city cars, when Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler put it up for sale. The company had previously said: “Manufacturing at Hambach ensures that Ineos remains on track to meet its plans to deliver the Grenadier to customers in early 2022.”

The Grenadier will be available at first in petrol and diesel variants, using engines from German carmaker BMW, with plans for a hydrogen fuel cell version in collaboration with South Korea’s Hyundai.

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