Chemical giant Ineos has moved a step closer to its first automotive production foray by entering talks with Ford to build an off-road vehicle at the manufacturer's engine factory in Wales.
Ineos has been planning to enter the automotive industry for quite some time with an alternative to the Land Rover Defender (pictured) with similar styling to the iconic vehicle.
Ford's factory in Bridgend, south Wales currently produces engines for Jaguar Land Rover, despite both brands being sold to Tata in 2008. However, after Jaguar Land Rover has confirmed that it will stop sourcing engines from the factory as soon as 2020, which could leave as many as 1,100 of Bridgend's 1,700-strong workforce without jobs. Ford is currently Britain's biggest engine producer, making half of the country's 2.7 million units at both the Bridgend plant and its other production facility in Dagenham, near London.
It's not just the factory's Jaguar Land Rover operations that are under threat either. Ford is one of several major carmakers worried about the effects Brexit could have on production, imports and supply chains, type approval, and costs.
That is where Ineos comes in. The London-based firm has earmarked the Wales site as a potential production location for its off-road vehicle venture. The Financial Times broke the news, citing sources said to be close to the discussions.
Ineos confirmed to the Financial Times that it had "several great options" regarding production locations, but it didn't confirm or deny the link to Bridgend. Ineos also said it will make its decision by the end of the year.
Despite being known for its chemical production, Ineos is definitely serious about building its first car. The company headed by Sir Jim Ratcliffe has already contracted former Mercedes-Benz offshoot MB tech to engineer the upcoming SUV, and Magna International – which also has Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW and Toyota as clients and also produces the Mini Countryman on behalf of BMW in Europe – to develop the new car's chassis.
While the Ineos SUV will resemble the old Defender, Land Rover itself is also working on a successor, which is slated to arrive next year.
The hotly-anticipated new Defender will add a more luxury and technology compared to the outgoing model in order to bring it well and truly into the 21st century, and by bringing the car more in line with the rest of its range, Land Rover is hoping that annual sales figures will increase to around 100,000 a year with the new generation – five times more than the old car.