Chemical company Ineos is branching into the automotive sector with plans to develop an “uncompromising” 4×4 off-road vehicle.
Production of the Land Rover Defender ceased in the UK in January 2016 and Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe believes a gap now exists in the market for a similar vehicle with comparable qualities and consumer appeal. The company said it would invest ‘many hundreds of millions’ into developing the vehicle.
The decision to pursue the new vehicle follows a six-month feasibility study and finding a suitable manufacturing site will form part of the project’s next phase.
Dirk Heilmann, the former head of engineering and technology at INEOS, will run the project in his capacity as CEO of INEOS Automotive.
“This is an amazing project for everyone involved,” said Heilmann. “Our job is to create the world’s best 4 x 4 and we are already moving forward with our plans.”
The project originated with Ratcliffe, who is said to have admired the original Land Rover Defender but now sees a place for a comparable off-road vehicle.
“I am a great admirer of the old Land Rover Defender and have enormous respect for its off road capability”, said Ratcliffe. “Our new 4 x4 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 vehicle’s global target market would include ‘agriculture and forestry workers, explorers and adventurers’ plus traditional Defender drivers. The company added that the new vehicle will offer a ‘real and pure alternative to the current crop of standardised ‘jelly-mould’ SUV’s’.