Jim Ratcliffe's Ineos set to make Land Rover Defender rival in France

Billionaire's goal of making the Grenadier 4x4 in Wales looks to be over as his company puts in offer to buy French plant

Grenadier 4x4
An impression of the Ineos Grenadier 4x4

Hopes that billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s new Grenadier 4x4 car could be built in the UK are fading after his company Ineos made a formal offer to buy a factory in France.

The tycoon is planning to take over the plant in Hambach, north-east France from Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler  - sparking fears that his plans to make a spiritual successor to the Land Rover Defender in Wales are now effectively dead.

It came as fellow car maker BMW announced plans to axe 400 jobs at its Oxford plant which makes the Mini.

Sir Jim had previously talked about building the Grenadier in the UK if it was economically sensible to do so, and had revealed plans for a vehicle assembly plant in south Wales that would create 500 jobs. The Welsh government had begun clearing land at Bridgend for the facility.

Another sub-assembly factory was planned for Portugal, offering about the same number of jobs.

But it emerged last month that Ineos - which has invested about £1bn into the Grenadier - was in talks with Daimler about taking charge of the factory near the border with Germany. The site currently makes Smart Cars.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is a fan of the Land Rover Defender, and hopes his car will be a modern day version of it

Sir Jim’s company said that discussions were triggered by Covid-19 as rival carmakers are forced to cut back following a collapse in sales.  The German automotive business put Hambach up for sale in late June.  

Ineos is confident that final terms will be agreed for the plant, which has an experienced workforce. A sale will depend on talks with unions representing workers.

In a separate blow to Britain’s car industry, BMW said that it is cutting 10pc of the 4,000-strong workforce at its Oxford Mini plant.

The Cowley Road site will lose 400 of 950 agency staff employed through Gi Group as it moves from a three-shift-per-day working pattern to two in October.

This change will cut daily output at the plant by up to a fifth from current levels of about 1,000 cars. Last year the plant built 222,340 Minis, accounting for the vast majority of the brand's overall production.

Lower production levels will also hit BMW’s other UK sites which provide engines and parts to the Oxford factory, along with other factories around the world run by the German company.

About 100 jobs will be cut from the 1,200-strong workforce at the firm's Hams Hall engine plant near Birmingham, along with all 20 agency roles at its Swindon pressings plant which employs 600 people in total.

Bob Shankly, human resources director at the Oxford factory, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a substantial impact on customer demand and our volume forecasts for 2020 have had to change accordingly.

"We have, therefore, made the difficult decision to adjust our shift patterns at MINI Plant Oxford from October. This will give us the flexibility we need to adapt our production in the short to medium term, according to developments in global markets.”

It has also emerged that Jaguar Land Rover will shift production of its petrol V8 engine, which is currently subcontracted to Ford.

Ford has been producing the engine - used in Jaguar F-Types and Range Rovers - at a Bridgend plant scheduled to close in September. 

Work will be moved to JLR’s Wolverhampton engine plant, with production resting early next year using the company’s own staff.

Ford workers have increased output of the engine to build a stockpile for JLR until the company can resume building in-house.