Landfall

Channelling an older, more illustrious vehicle, Ineos Automotive have shown first images of their upcoming Grenadier. Haven’t we seen you somewhere before?

(c) Autocar

“And did those feet in ancient time walk upon England’s mountain green?”

Classy yet classless. Both of the land, yet above it, the Land Rover Defender, within these islands at least, inhabits its own unique orbit. It’s a name which elicits certain qualities – of no-nonsense, robust self sufficiency, of capable and practical professionals, like country vets, tree surgeons, utility providers, coastguards. That’s certainly the image its makers chose to project, speaking to fond notions of national identity, everyday heroism, practicality and fundamental decency which have been enduring traits of that increasingly peculiar country collectively called Britain.

In production for the best part of 70 years, although it has in fact been refashioned many times, the Landie, over its lengthy and productive life has become a potent symbol of something inviolate, unchangeable – like Dover’s White Cliffs. So much so that in today’s febrile shared-media landscape, vehicles like the original Defender are fetishised – raised aloft and hailed as archetypes – images of authenticity amid a world increasingly laced with fakery and contrivance.

Into this environment landed a new LR Defender last Autumn, the culmination of hundreds of millions of pounds, much all-terrain proving, and a good deal of soul-searching on the part of its creators, but amidst those who worship at the altar of true belief, it’s a travesty, a sell-out, a stark betrayal. But whatever the rights and wrongs of the Defender as currently reconstituted, JLR have brought it to market with the twin aims of selling enough to make a profit – which ought to be the point of the exercise – alongside fulfilling the brief to create a viable halo product.

Freighted with images of old Albion, possessed of an intrepid, go-anywhere capability, a little jerry-built here and there and prone to leaving you in the lurch on occasion, yet easily sorted and decent company if you can put up with the noise, the punishing ride and the lack of creature comfort, the outgone Defender was not only a vehicle of charm, considerable character, and undoubted offroad capability, but perhaps an equally plangent metaphor of nationhood and identity.

Enter Sir Jim Ratcliffe: knight of the Realm, Monaco-domiciled billionaire, Vote Leave supporter and ur-Defender aficionado. So much so, he attempted to purchase the tooling from Land Rover upon the original car’s 2015 retirement. No dice. JLR, highly protective of the Defender’s iconography had plans of their own, not to mention a £ multi-million investment in their heritage centre, restoration and modification business – Land Rover Classic.

Not the sort of individual to take this snub lying down, Ratcliffe elected to build his own version from scratch, along broadly similar lines. So similar in fact, that JLR sought legal recourse to prevent Ineos from proceeding. Land Rover subsequently lost the ensuing case, the UK’s intellectual property office ruling that the carmaker didn’t have exclusive rights to the Defender silhouette, itself a somewhat generic 4×4 shape, shared with several other products of a similar nature. But according to Automotive News, JLR have successfully trademarked the Defender shape in the US and elsewhere.

On July 1, Ineos Automotive showed the first CGI images of the vehicle, dubbed Grenadier, so called because the idea is said to have formulated in the pub of the same name in London’s Belgravia. As shown, the Grenadier cleaves faithfully to the original Defender template – so faithfully indeed that to the untrained eye it appears to be something more akin to a Chinese copy. Technically too, it’s all back to the 1940s, with a ladder frame chassis, and live axle suspension front and rear; the primary concession to modernity being the use of contemporary BMW-sourced engines and automatic transmissions.

Intended to go on sale at the end of 2021, Ineos Automotive representatives, speaking with the assuredly compliant Steve Cropley for Autocar, rationalised showing the car now, so far from the on-sale date, so that they could carry out the remainder of the vehicle proving “in plain sight“; this despite the fact that most carmakers seem to manage quite well with some suitably lurid bodywrap. For this virtual unveiling, only the exterior design was shown, the cabin design still being “finalised”, a mere 18 months from production – which augers well for lead-times.

Stated pricing they say is to to be from “around £40,000“, climbing one assumes somewhat precipitously from there. Ineos Automotive CEO, former chemical engineer, Dirk Heilmann asserts that the Grenadier programme will make a profit with projected annual sales, (once production is fully ramped up), of 25,000 Grenadiers per annum.

This sounds somewhat dubious, given that this was roughly the level of custom Land Rover were enjoying with the outgoing Defender before the plug was pulled. And amid the protracted hand-wringing over its in-house replacement, the strong argument against making the new Defender along broadly similar conceptual lines was the lack of a viable business case, raising questions as to how Ineos (a business with no track record in carmaking) plans to achieve what JLR, a vastly experienced player could not.

Further questions arise. Where is the future proofing for a rapidly approaching post C-19 legislative environment where at least some form of electrification will be mandated? What of type-approval – crash testing? Who will sell this vehicle, or maintain it? Where are these sales to come from if JLR has successfully protected the Defender shape in the US? There is also a question of provenance. For many in this section of the market, heritage counts for a great deal. The Land Rover’s reputation was forged over almost seven decades, proving itself to be one of the most rugged and capable off-roaders available off the peg. Ineos who, and how much did you say?

But aside from the foregoing, this week another dimension to the unfolding tale emerged. Having reportedly started groundwork on a site in Bridgend, Wales, Ineos announced that they are now considering obtaining the soon to be shuttered Smart car plant in Moselle in Eastern France. This turnkey factory, which is redundant owing to Smart production being shifted Chinawards, comes with the advantage of allowing production of the Grenadier chassis and body in one place. And with powertrains and suspensions arriving from Germany and Italy respectively, the case for having a site in tariff-free mainland Europe looks increasingly compelling, especially given the likely outcome of the still-disputed Brexit settlement.

Dirk Heilman was keen to defend the move, pointing out that social distancing measures were having a negative impact on the works in Bridgend. But aren’t they everywhere, even in Moselle? Meanwhile, the First Minister told news outlets that the Welsh government remain in talks with Ineos over securing the 500 direct jobs the plant would bring to the region. And so the wheel turns.

It’s almost impossible to maintain an impartial stance amidst this unfolding saga. Even without the latest twist, can we truly take Ineos and the Grenadier at face value? Even if this is a serious venture (and the jury remains out on that) what in heavens is the point? To underline how the new Defender just isn’t Land Roverey enough? Simply because he can? The whole thing shrieks of self-regard and vainglory. A passionate supporter for an independent Britain, isn’t Mr Ratcliffe’s Ineos effectively undermining one of the country’s key employers and exporters by seemingly co-opting their defining design?

Bravely unfurling the national flag, the Grenadier is to have its chassis built in Portugal (pending events one imagines), its engines in Germany, its suspension in Italy, much of its chassis engineering at Magna Steyr in Austria and as it now seems, (again provisionally) assembly in Lorraine. And all to achieve fruition in 18 months time. Still, self-adhesive Union Jacks will be no doubt be available for purchase. The people at Gaydon must be watching this with tremendous interest, and grim amusement.

“Bring me my bow of burning gold! Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold! Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight, Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem In England’s green and pleasant land.”

Because if Land Rover’s Defender can be understood as something akin to the UK’s automotive Jerusalem, the Grenadier too can be read in metaphorical terms: Brexit incarnate. Welcome to Global Britain.

Jerusalem: William Blake.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

29 thoughts on “Landfall”

  1. Good morning Eóin. What a disappointing pastiche of the original. At least the G-Wagen, which suffers from exactly the same complaint, is still sold by Mercedes-Benz. I’m surprised by the UK Intellectual Property Ruling. The Grenadier goes far further than just using the same two-box silhouette of the Defender. The bonnet, waistline and front grille treatment are facsimiles of the original. I’m not a huge fan of the new Defender, but I wish it well in the face of this exercise in plagiarism.

    I wonder if, in your enthusiasm to bring us this exciting news, you might have mistyped a vowel in the title of your piece?

    In other disappointing news today, Suzuki has announced that UK sales of the new Jimny will stop once current orders have been filled. No new orders will be taken. According to Autocar, the reason for the Jimny’s withdrawal is the adverse effect it has on the brand’s fleet average CO2 emissions. Even in most frugal manual form its CO2 rating is 154g/km – well above the 95g/km fleet average Suzuki will need to meet in 2021. It’s very disappointing, given that the Jimny is pretty well unique in its offer and would have been very popular (which is why it mattered so much to Suzuki’s fleet average CO2).

    1. Oh dear. What a pity about the Jimny. Could they not have at least reduced sales to a above zero rather than cut it entirely?
      The difference between the Jimny and the Defender is that the Jimny has never gained the tough-guy, gangland association of the Defender. Being so dainty it doesn´t fit with the image that urban SUV buyers usually want (they like the big scale of the Defender and others in that class).
      The politics of the Grenadier tempt me to go political but I won´t – the space between the lines in Eoin’s article say more than enough. You´ll just have to image the 300 words on “irony” and “hypocrisy” I have not written here.

  2. Good article. Just note however that Hambach, Moselle is in Lorraine, not Alsace.

  3. It’s hard to see the point of this thing, unless the Grenadier has been designed to an unseen/unpublicised British MoD specification (in which case Ineos might mysteriously garner UK Government support out of all proportion to any business case). I certainly can’t see it taking many conquest sales from the Hilux/LandCruiser/Patrol/Pajero market, not at €40 and upwards, and not from a company with slightly fewer resources than Toyota et. al.
    But if it’s not a utility vehicle, then why bother?

  4. Here comes another Billionaire Brexiter Brit to show the automotive industry how its done.

    Dyson threw in the towel a few months ago, after admitting that he couldn’t see a way of making money with his electric car. Either it would be priced competitively against its rivals, in which case it would be a loss-making enterprise, or it would be priced at a level where sales would be too low.

    I still suspect that the real reason for Dyson’s failure is that the solid state battery technology he had bet on is still nowhere near production ready. With it, Dyson EV would have a compelling USP. Without it, it didn’t.

    As to the Grenadier, there is logic in employing expertise from across the industry, sharing the risk with suppliers, and then assembling the whole thing from high quality component sets. But I cannot see how this can be done profitably at their suggested price point and volume. And, clearly, the actual car is a long way from being complete. Ineos promised they would unveil their product last week. Sharing a few images of a mocked up vehicle is not the same, and frankly it’s a little embarrassing.

    Ratcliffe is certainly wealthy enough to plough on regardless, but surely the alarm bells must be ringing. An experienced, well-funded car maker will take two years to turn a finished prototype or near-production concept into an actual product. Apparently Grenadier prototypes are already being tested on the road but, if that’s the case, why not show the actual vehicle?

    I am sceptical at best right now.

    As for the people of South Wales, a few months ago they had three new vehicles to look forward to building: Aston DBX, reborn TVR, and Grenadier. Now they are down to one.

    1. Good point. What the hell happened to new TVR factory and new Cosworth engine supply next door?

    2. TVR have had a relaunch of sorts this month. It amounts to little more than interviews with the senior people stressing their determination to get the new Griffith into production. They’ve still got a way to go.

      The new TVR is intriguing, not least because it’s based on Gordon Murray’s ‘iStream’ manufacturing concept. Despite its apparent advantages for low volume production, no production car has yet seen the light of day.

    3. I mean absolutely no disrespect to Mr Murray, but my (possibly mistaken) impression is that he has a rather low strike rate when it comes to getting his road car concepts into production. That T25/27 seemed to have been knocking around for years before coming to nothing (as far as I am aware). Still, he did the McLaren F1…

    4. Wales: Land of myths and legends…

      At least Gilbern actually built cars.

    5. Agreed Charles. My last comment should in no way be construed as in any way slighting the fine country of Wales or the equally fine cars of Gilbern. My barb was pointed elsewhere.

  5. Probably one tries to proof how to make a small fortune with a Land Rover copy if you start with a big one.

    1. A Welsh made car with a proper name; Gilbern Invader. The owners club looks well sorted and their journal goes by the name Welsh Rarebit; ‘nuff said

  6. The automotive journalists, Richard Porter and Jonny Smith, covered this vehicle in their latest podcast (‘Sniff & Smith’ – Richard Porter runs the satirical site, ‘Sniff Petrol’). It’s fair to say that Mr Porter isn’t keen…

  7. Leaving nostalgia aside, it is difficult to me to understand this as a product. While there is logic in wanting a basic off-roader without complex electronics if you intend to travel to the most remote corners of the world (a Defender or Land Cruiser or an old G with mechanical injection), this is not going to be it; the BMW engine as well as the gearbox are going to have to have the same ECU’s used by anyone else.
    It will also need clean, ULSD fuel and urea injection, as well as the specialist servicing these modern components require.
    Nah, if you are going to go modern, go modern all the way

  8. Isn’t this the dream come true? Haven’t we played the game of what car could be put in production indefinitely? I’d say an open source modern Land Rover reproduction is exactly what the world needs right now, I would certainly buy one if I had the money. This is the kind of car that could be updated every year and still be in production seventy years from now. I’d say this is one of the few business cases that actually makes sense.

    1. A bit like the Russian AK-47 assault rifle… copied in the millions by many countries but of varying quality. All parts are interchangeable and they all accept the same ammunition the world over. Sadly.

    1. Range Lander? Freeranger? Or any anagram of the letters L, N, A,D, R, O, V, R, E?

      There it is: LnadRovre Efdender.

      On reflection they would have used pretty much the same design effort doing something not so much the same as this, and more distinctively itself.

      I have no problem with the company entering a vacated market niche. Going to all that effort and skimping on the design (it looks like skimping to me) takes some of the shine off the enterprise. Every year scores of design students graduate from the RCA and Coventry. A combination of a grad plus an experienced studio manager kind of person would have resulted in a more convincing take on the Defender theme. The Defender itself is not a kind of natural form, drawn from nature. It was a response to demands and technical requirements which were or are, so to speak, “out there” and which the LnadRoevr Efdender should have been looking to. Like the dog, this firm looked not at where the hand was pointing but the hand.

      The right question was: “What was it the Defender tried to do” (answer: the Defender did X) and not “How can we reproduce the Defender?”.
      The Defender tried to do X (rugged, off-roading etc) . The Grenadier is trying to reproduce a car doing X, which is in important ways not the same thing.

    2. The Ineos as shown seems almost perverse in its desire to replicate the ur-Landie in just about every possible metric. The Grenadier’s designer normally creates superyachts. Having designed one (or possibly two) for Mr. Ratcliffe, he was asked to give the Defendier a go, because one supposes, how hard could it be? That’s no disrespect to him, I’m sure his yachts are very good, but cars do require quite different skillsets.

      It’s very hard to escape the view that Ratcliffe and co simply weren’t interested in doing anything particularly interesting, or fresh; the brief being (I imagine) to replicate the Defender almost to the point of parody. The essential core of the Grenadier lacks the basic honesty of the car it sets to replicate. Too up itself to be a genuine working vehicle or recreational mud-plugger and with that powertrain, too upmarket and ill-suited to the task. On the other hand, it’s too uncompromised (and expensive) to attract the average SUV punter.

      Furthermore, it requires from its customers a tacit understanding that it’s really a continuation Land Rover – which it clearly is not. Because without that 70-odd years of heritage, what is it?

  9. Do you think Sir Jim got so drunk one afternoon in The Grenadier pub that he acted similar to Victor Kiam, rather liked the idea of his own Landie and “bought the company?” Or when he realised that plan (once sober) couldn’t run tried the next best thing. Only to end up with this…thing which is neither here nor there.
    Definitely some odd substances consumed to deliver such product.

  10. On the topic of trademark design copyright, FCA in the US managed to last month finally get the Mahindra Roxor deemed a Jeep knock-off. In the US, Mahindra was only selling this ancient brute as an off-highway recreational vehicle like an ATV. No way was it going to pass official crash testing, and the wild 54bhp diesel WITH turbo breathing hard, hold me back momma!, was sufficient to plod about the far Western cattle ranches hopping from ridge to rut on unbendable leaf springs. Cheaper to buy a used Jeep. More useful to buy a nimble four wheel ATV to herd cattle. If you want to have a laugh, read the Wikipedia article on it, probably written by the Mahindra PR Dept.

    Mahindra had in the far distant past actually made Jeep under licence but for use in India and surrounding regions. So having the trademark Jeep grille appear on American shores no matter the reason for sale was a bit too much for Jeep. The UK court ruling against Land Rover makes you wonder about Rolls Royce’s jealous guardianship of its name, grille and mascot being valid. The law may be an ass, but my seven decades on this orb lead me to believe that often the real ass is some judge who interprets it, and few of them in Blighty, assessed from afar like me in the colonies with hat brim held in both hands upon my chest and eyes down cast towards the ground, seem to be anything but upper crust themselves, as this lad Sir Jim undoubtedly is because of his money. I would certainly say the LR styling is unique enough to be an icon.

    Some diesel would never work for volume sales if this replicant were to have been sold in the US. A petrol engine is a must; crash testing results need to be decent – is there budget for that to meet Type Approval even for legal traipsing around the EU? And Ford is just about to release on Monday July 13 the new Bronco, which is their take on Jeep and its Wrangler. If ever there were a scheme so likely to be shot down in flames, this Ineos Grenadier defines it. Stick a fork in it, it’s already done. And that’s without all the other valid criticism in the article and comments.

    I like the actual new Defender. I have the Lego version myself, an exercise in plastic flight of fancy, half built because I ran out of patience and interest when it became obvious the “chassis” lacked torsional rigidity, and any resemblance between it and reality, despite Lego’s insistence on its educational value, is almost non-existent.

  11. Landfill! hehe.
    (I fully expect my attached images not to display – hoping someone can fix this!)

    A bit late with my comment, but I feel very strongly about the way LR have messed up the Defender.

    I feel like the thing LR should have done is rationalising the Landy with an archeological dig into the form of the thing to remove the years of carbuncles and embellishments added with little thought to the overall form. It’s such a strikingly minimal silhouette, and the addition of weird windscreen, ‘puma’ bonnet with power bulge, fat mudguards, grille that stands proud of the lights and of course ALL THAT CHEQUERPLATE over the years diluted it massively. People like Ineos, and the other LR tuners seem blind to this and generally seem to think the idea is to bolt on cheap looking plastic parts and ‘Big Rims’ in the name of aggression and ‘toughness’.

    If I had the dream job of making a new LR I would just strip it right back. New everything but nothing that really stands out as new other than better chassis, better engine packaging so that the bonnet and grille can play nice with the lines (ie just use the original V8 grill) and of course, try and make the things that have never lined up line up like the way the safari windows don’t match the width of the side windows, (which also don’t match the driver-door windows), the way the 5 door’s rear doors have that weird cut-off angle, replace the absolutely horrible windscreen / firewall / air-vents with the tidy windscreen of the Italian ‘Santana’ versions, and fix the way no two radii on the corner of any window of the car actually match

    Do that and you start to approach the true form of the car. Which would probably sell.
    Here’s what I mean:

    See also: Cool and Vintage customs in Portugal, who actually polish the jewel instead of covering it in tat.

    Santana Land Rover (italian-built cars under license, but with nicer roofs and windscreens)

    Also of note – Candylab toy cars in the US seem to have managed to find its true form

    1. Good morning Huw. I’m late seeing your comment, but I really like your reimagining of the Defender. It captures the essence of the vehicle but in a much simplified form. What a shame Ineos (or JLR) didn’t go this way.

      Great Photoshop skills, by the way!

  12. I see various issues with INEOS Automotive’s Grenadier many of them already touched on in the main article and comments above.

    Assuming Sir Jim Ratcliffe is indeed the Land Rover aficionado he claims to be then rest assured the Grenadier that MB-TECH (Daimler-Benz) have engineered and delivered will be causing him nightmares in the styling department alone.

    Once I heard that he and senior INEOS Automotive management had contracted MB-TECH to the project I was simply expecting a badge engineered (i.e. cheap mil-spec) version of the G-Class (G-Wagen) itself made under contract by Magna Automotive in Austria for Mercedes-Benz and supplied in number to the Australian military and other countries.

    This is in stark contrast to the civilian G-Class made alongside the military spec versions in the giant Magna factory which retails from €100k+ and sold through every Mercedes-Benz dealer in both diesel, petrol and performance AMG model variants.

    What transpired was even stranger and more complicated than anybody could have imagined. Engineered by MB-TECH (Mercedes-Benz) but with Toyota chassis, (arch rival) BMW powertrain engines and transmission, running gear and suspension by Carraro Engineering as well as many other third party component suppliers.

    Incidentally the new BMW Z4 and sister car Toyota Supra are both made in same Magna assembly plant along with a MINI and Jaguar I-Pace.

    The saving grace in all this was the announcement that Bridgend, South Wales in UK had won the bid to build the Grenadier beating several other European countries to much fan fare including Portugal. The champagne hadn’t settled in the Welsh Assembly when news came through that “well actually” quick back track – Portugal will get body and sub-assembly with Bridgend getting final assembly (CKD)? for that coveted and essential (for Sir Jim) ‘Made in Great Britain’ stamp.

    Now the fully operational and (convenient) empty French SMART (Daimler-Benz) car plant ready to start production post Covid-19 the rug has been pulled from under the Portuguese and Welsh contingent who are no more than muddy fields and one of them on the wrong side of Brexit.

    Many are hoping it’s just a bluff for more funding from EU and UK.

    I assume with no INEOS Automotive dealer network in place the Grenadier will be eventually sold direct online and warranty/parts/service carried out by the BMW dealer network?

    I guess all we can do is watch how this increasingly bizarre story unfolds.

  13. I am saddened to read that the legal team appointed by JLR/TATA lost their legal challenge against INEOS Automotive in court recently to defend the classic Defender (shape) patent from being used on the production INEOS Grenadier. I thought the judge would at least rule in favour of Land Rover for the roof lights or alpine window design if not the familiar two box vehicle shape. Shame.

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