THE car industry was given a huge boost today with news of hundreds of jobs being created to build a new 4×4 vehicle.
Ineos Automotive – part of the chemicals and energy giant Ineos Group – has announced that it will make the new model at Bridgend in south Wales, next to the huge Ford engine plant, which is closing next year with the loss of 1,700 jobs.
Around 200 jobs will be created initially, but that is expected to increase to 500 when the vehicle is in full production.
It will be named Grenadier, after the Knightsbridge pub where the idea was first discussed in 2015 to plug the gap created by the imminent end of production of the Land Rover Defender – although the Defender is soon to be reborn – and Ineos Automotive was subsequently established in 2016 by Ineos chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
Groundwork has already started and production will begin in 2021. Parts will be transported from across Europe for final assembly in Bridgend, including engines from a BMW plant in Austria and the body from Portugal.
Ineos executives said Brexit had been hanging over the project since the start, so they always knew about the uncertainty for the industry of leaving the EU.
‘We obviously hope there is a deal, but we are two years away from the start of production, so there will be a lot of water under the bridge before then,’ said one executive. ‘Whatever happens, we are prepared to take it on the chin.’
Sir Jim said: ‘The decision to build in the UK is a significant expression of confidence in British manufacturing, which has always been at the heart of what Ineos stands for.’
Four other sites in the UK were considered for the plant, as well as more than a dozen across Europe.
Ineos is spending £600m on the project, with the aim of building 25,000 models a year, mainly for export.
The Grenadier will be aimed at small business owners, farmers and corporate fleets, as well as for pulling horse boxes or jet-skis, for example.
Dirk Heilmann, chief executive of Ineos Automotive, said today’s announcement was a major milestone for the project. ‘We are progressing well with the design and engineering work as well as our marketing and distribution plans.’
Welsh government economy minister Ken Skates said: ‘This is a huge vote of confidence in the workforce and economy of Wales at an incredibly challenging time.
‘Not only is this good news for Bridgend – and I am sure the first of many exciting announcements for the area – but it also proves that Wales remains an attractive place to invest [in] despite ongoing Brexit uncertainty.
‘Our work to support Bridgend in the wake of Ford’s proposals will not stop here and we will continue to do all we can to attract new business opportunities, to support Ford workers and to ensure an exciting future for the town.’
Ian Price, CBI Wales director, said: ‘Today’s announcement from Ineos will give a real shot in the arm to Bridgend and the wider automotive sector in Wales.
‘The recent news of Ford’s planned closure came as a real blow to the local economy, so we’re hopeful that today can mark the start of a new era for Welsh manufacturing and give the highly skilled workforce in Bridgend greater security for the future.’
Jeff Beck, GMB Wales and South West regional organiser, said: ‘It’s extremely welcome news that Ineos has chosen Bridgend as the site for the production of its new 4×4. Car-making is in the DNA of Bridgend.’