More than a year and a half ago, the last Land Rover Defender rolled off the production line. We’ve heard that its replacement is currently under development, but it will likely be more civilized than the famously bare-bones off-roader it replaces. One British billionaire thinks that’s a problem—one he intends to solve by building a utilitarian SUV of his own that he says will serve as the Defender’s spiritual successor.
Jim Ratcliffe, CEO of a British chemical company called Ineos, has been planning this Defender replacement for quite a while. Back in February, his company announced it had completed a six-month feasibility study and that it would move forward with its plans to build its own “uncompromising” SUV.
“I am a great admirer of the old Land Rover Defender and have enormous respect for its off-road capability, and our new 4 x4 has been inspired by it,” said Ratcliffe at the time. “But whilst our off-roader might share its spirit, our new car will be a major improvement on previous models.”
To make this so-called “Projekt Grenadier” a reality, Ineos’ new automotive division says it’s prepared to spend more than $800 million developing the new SUV. If things go according to plan, it could also create as many as 7,000 jobs in the U.K. So far, though, there’s no concept vehicle, only a website and a management team consisting of Dirk Heilmann, CEO of the newly created Ineos Automotive, and Tom Crotty, the project’s head of marketing.
“Our job is to create the world’s best and most uncompromising 4×4 and we are steadily moving forward with the project,” said Heilmann. “We have recruited a first-class management team, are making good progress in our search for a manufacturing site, and are now launching the new Projekt Grenadier interactive website.”
Is it actually going to happen, though? Is the world about to get an all-new, back-to-basics SUV like the Defender, only with better build quality? We sure hope so. But then again, as many recent startups have discovered, building cars is expensive, especially reliable cars. The $800 million currently budgeted is a lot of money, but Ineos could easily end up needing more to bring its SUV to market. Still, Ratcliffe doesn’t sound concerned.
“We are used to taking on big, innovative projects and delivering them safely on time and on budget,” he said. “We have vast amounts of manufacturing and engineering expertise and a proven track record of success and look forward to applying this to create a world-class 4×4.”
Best of luck with that, Mr. Ratcliffe. You’re going to need it.