It’s 2017 and Ineos CEO Sir Jim Ratcliff, a 4×4 enthusiast, is mourning the loss of the Defender, an SUV that is being replaced by a more modern — and far less basic — vehicle. Nursing a beer at the Grenadier pub in London, Sir Jim decides that if Land Rover is no longer building a Defender, he will. And since he signs the checks at Ineos, he knows it can be done.
And with that, Ineos Automotive was born, a division of the world’s third-largest chemical company.
Putting together a new vehicle from scratch by a neophyte company might cause some to wonder how good the vehicle might be. After all, Land Rover, Jeep, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota have decades of experience.
“While we don’t, as an automotive entity, have more than 73 minutes of experience, you work with partners and they listen to you, because they do have that experience,” said Gregg Clark, executive vice president for Ineos Automotive, whose partners include BMW Group and Magna Steyr.
The vehicle they’re building, the Ineos Grenadier, feeds a market that’s underserved, Clark said. “In terms of capability and rugged dependability, you’ve got a vehicle that’s built for a 30-year lifespan plus rather than a 10-year lifespan,” he said.
Clark comes to Ineos after stints at Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes-AMG, Mercedes-Benz and Acura.
What we know about the 2023 Ineos Grenadier
While the body-on-frame Grenadier’s exterior is 90% finished, stylists are a few weeks away from revealing the interior design.
The body itself is a mix of steel and aluminum, and is reinforced so you can sit, stand or work on the bumper, fenders and hood. The roof has a static load capacity of about 750 pounds — enough to hold a tent, you and a friend.
The Grenadier’s side rails feature L tracks for mounting jerrycans, shovels, rescue ramps, luggage and other items on the side of the vehicle. Grab rails atop the rear side windows assist in accessing the roof, or can used as tiedown points. A 70/30 split barn-door style rear hatch can be fitted with a ladder for easier roof access. The windshield is fixed, but the sunroof is removable.
The undercarriage has front and rear skid plates, rock sliders, as well as protection for the oil pan, transmission, the three differentials, and the fuel tank with up to four mil grade steel.
As you might expect, Ineos is working with third-party accessory manufacturers in SEMA, of which it’s a member, to provide aftermarket accessories when the SUV is launched. In addition, the Grenadier will be pre-wired with auxiliary switches so that electric accessories, such as a front or rear winch, can be activated from inside.
What’s under the hood?
Power will come from a BMW turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine and ZF 8-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability calibrated specifically for the vehicle. A manual transmission will not be offered. A diesel engine will be sold in most markets, but not the United States or Canada due to the difficulty meeting emission requirements, although Mexico remains a possibility.
The Grenadier will come with a 2-speed transfer case, three locking differentials, and a 7,700-pound towing capacity. There are solid beam axles for maximum articulation and a galvanized steel-ladder frame. Both steel and alloy wheels will be shod with either BF Goodrich mud tires or Bridgestone all-season, on-road tires. Driver assistance features include automatic emergency braking.
Clark says the vehicle will weigh less than 8,500 pounds, keeping it in the light-duty vehicle class.
What about alternative fuel powertrains?
Although Ineos will not initially offer an alternative fuel powertrain, the company has signed a memorandum of understanding with Hyundai for partnering in development of hydrogen fuel cells, while also talking with BMW on the same subject.
“That for us is a much more viable option then battery electric,” Clark said. “Think about the nature and the purpose of this vehicle to truly take you off the grid. You don’t want to be worrying about being tethered to a charging network and mega-range anxiety, which is a huge consideration when you’re actually putting the vehicle through its paces off road.”
Of course, being that Ineos is one the world’s largest chemical companies, you might think they’d develop the Grenadier to run on synthetic fuels, not hydrogen fuel cells. But so far, this doesn’t seem to be planned.
When will it go on sale?
Despite the semi-conductor crisis, Clark said there’s no change from Ineos’ original timing. Look for sales to start in Europe in the summer of 2022, with the U.S. to follow some months after that. But there are many things that need to happen, from establishing a U.S. office location and building a team, to establishing a retail network.
Ineos Automotive is currently deciding where to locate its North American headquarters, with leading contenders including Houston (where its parent company is headquartered), Georgia and the Carolinas. The latter would put them near an east coast port, although the company also envisions having cars shipped to a west coast port as well allowing for vehicle configuration once on the ground.
And unlike other neophyte automakers, Ineos is creating a dealer network rather than selling the vehicles themselves.
“Finding the right partners is absolutely critical for us,” Clark said, who is looking for retail partners with, “the right retail partners that can provide us the right regional footprint, with the right operation, operational capabilities and the right professionalism that absolutely understand us, our brands and this particular marketplace.”
For Clark, that means the company will land and expand. “The U.S. is the single most important market in terms of volume and scale,” he said. “We’ll probably have 70% market coverage at launch. I’m aiming to have between 30 and 50 sites across the U.S., and Canada, with a few down in Mexico.”
Where will it come from?
The car will be built in a former Mercedes-Benz site in Hambach, Germany, a plant that has received a substantial investment from Daimler during the past five years. In fact, Ineos will continue contract manufacturing the Smart EQ as part of its sales agreement.
One-third of Ineos’ planned worldwide production of 30,000 units will come to North America. While the company isn’t currently considering importing CKDs, they would consider it if they decide to import the forthcoming Ineos pickup to avoid the chicken tax. “It’s punitive from a competitive positioning perspective,” Clark said.
But don’t expect to see Ineos sell a bewildering number of Grenadier variants. “I think other manufacturers have created too much complexity, too much product proliferation,” Clark noted. “I would much rather this car be excellently equipped, right out of the box, and offer two or three choices in terms of product pillars, with the ability to customize on top of that.”
Pricing will sit above the Wrangler and Bronco, but below the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, although the number wasn’t revealed.
At the end of the day, the Ineos Grenadier is a premium niche vehicle, sold to wealthy 4×4 enthusiasts in limited numbers. “It’s not going to be for everybody and that’s okay,” Clark said.