Familiar Faces: Ineos Debuts Grenadier Design

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

If it seems like years have passed since we’ve issued an update on Ineos Group’s attempt at building a Defender-inspired SUV, that’s because it has been. The British chemical conglomerate asked Land Rover if it could assemble copies of the then-defunct automobile back in 2016, only to be told to take a hike. Unfazed, CEO Jim Ratcliffe said Ineos would move ahead on the program anyway — focusing instead on building an updated model “influenced” by the utility vehicle, but not a carbon copy.

The company now says the model, dubbed Grenadier, is swiftly approaching production. Even though it doesn’t share any parts with the vintage Defender 110, it still resembles the 4×4 utility to a point that might lead to continued legal troubles with Jaguar Land Rover.

JLR’s refusal to allow Ineos Group to purchase the classic Defender’s tooling encouraged Ratcliffe to move on a new “no-nonsense 4×4 vehicle” that could serve as an easy-to-fix ORV for enthusiasts or people who just prefer old-school automobiles. Unfortunately, Land Rover has brought back the Defender in a more modern guise and will likely attempt to defend its intellectual property — even if it no longer seems interested in offering a basic and capable off-roader.

“The brief was simple. We set out to design a modern, functional and highly capable 4×4 vehicle with utility at its core,” said Toby Ecuyer, Ineos’s Head of Design, in a statement. “A design that is ‘easy-to-read,’ with no ambiguity about the Grenadier’s role in life. There to do everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Nothing is for show. Modern engineering and production techniques ensure the Grenadier is highly capable, but we have been able to stay true to the essence of creating a utilitarian vehicle that will stand the test of time.”

That’s the kind of marketing copy that should perk the years of anybody who actually likes purposeful automobiles lacking the bells and whistles that (some of us think) currently plague the industry. Ratcliffe is adamant that there’s an underserved consumer base ripe for the picking and claims the new Land Rover won’t be there for them with the new Defender.

“The Grenadier project started by identifying a gap in the market, abandoned by a number of manufacturers, for a utilitarian off-road vehicle,” he said while previewing the Grenadier’s design. “This gave us our engineering blueprint for a capable, durable and reliable 4×4 built to handle the world’s harshest environments. But it had to look the part as well. As you will see today, Toby and his team have done a great job in delivering a design that is both distinctive and purposeful.”

It might also be lucrative if vintage Defender prices are anything to go by. Some consumers clearly lament the absence of more straightforward vehicles as every player becomes ever more computerized and crossover-ified. Remember how stoked everyone was that the Suzuki Jimny was updated without ruining everything it originally stood for? Ineos believes it can do something similar with a more premium product now that it can’t just manufacture old Defenders.

Automotive News reported that Land Rover already attempted to trademark the classic Defender shape in a bid to stymie Ineos’ plans, but a judge in Britain’s Intellectual Property Office denied JLR’s request last fall, stating that the model’s shape was already pretty close to a number of off-road vehicles manufactured throughout the 20th century. The company has managed to trademark the unit in the United States, however, which may prove problematic for Ineos. Considering the original Land Rover is often accused of being Willys Jeep ripoff aimed at farmers, it’s also a little ironic.

Still, the chemical company seems committed to trying its hand at automotive manufacturing and seems to understand how the game is played. By debuting the Grenadier now, it may be attempting to force action from JLR so everything can be settled by the time the model is slated to go on sale. It also has more than enough cash on hand to get the ball rolling, with at least $1 billion invested into the project already.

Germany’s MBTech will focus on on general product development while Magna Steyr will work on body engineering in Austria. BMW is tapped to supply the motors (which will include a diesel variant) and Ineos says it has already secured most of the suppliers it needs, adding that they’ll be sending their most durable wares.

The company has made no secret about its aim to capitalize on the vintage Defender craze, though it admits it wants to do more to set its vehicle apart now that it can’t just build continuation models. For better or worse, the team claims Grenadier will have an interior display with some amount of internet connectivity. Privacy concerns have already made this author want to pitch his smartphone into the sea and stick to vehicles manufactured before the mid 2000s, but average folks seem to enjoy the accompanying features of connected cars and may not want to go without them when given the option.

Presently, Grenadier is estimated to commence production in 2021 and manifest in the U.S. the following year — if JLR doesn’t rally the lawyers. Even if it does, the chemical company has deep pockets and a highly paid legal team of its own. Ineos expects to manufacturer the Defender-like SUV first, with a four-door pickup to follow — potentially giving Jeep’s Gladiator some fresh competition.

[Image: Ineos]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • SuperCarEnthusiast SuperCarEnthusiast on Jul 07, 2020

    Looks more like a Land Rover Defender then the new Defender does! I will be interested in look at this when it is offered foe sale in the U.S.

  • El scotto El scotto on Jul 07, 2020

    Friend of mine went to University of Chicago law school. He ends up in Charleston, SC. Marries an enchanting woman from a 'fine family". New wife turns him into an anglophile. Tweed jackets, over-under shotguns, goofy spaniel as pet/hunting dog, you get the idea. Full madness overtakes him and he had a used bought off the internet Land Rover 110 delivered to his house. Three years and two note books full of receipts later he declares that no more problems will beset the Land Rover, it is perfection. Wife takes Land Rover, heir apparent and girl child to grocery store. The Land Rover won't start; wife, children, and gelato are melting to various degrees. A few weeks later, the perfect Land rover is back from the shop. Wife studies bill, demands the two notebooks of receipts and states she'll study all this for a few days. A few days go by and the Land Rover is put up for sale. Tweedy anglophile couple buy it and drive away, perhaps with thoughts of home counties and clotted cream. Wife fires up internet and shows my friend a pristine Jeep Wagoneer Limited. She smiled and said, "V-8, air conditioning, can do 90 all the way to Orlando and can be fixed by a mechanic with two first names". It's their beach house/mountain cabin vehicle. It easily cruises up and down I-26 with the AC blasting. The moral to this story? Lots of people THINK they want a bespoke British 4WD vehicle. Until it breaks (and it will)or needs something restored (and it will). Then they discover that large 'Murican made BOF SUVS use common truck parts (this is a very good thing), have HVAC systems that include AC on those days you can cut the humidity and keep more than your ankle warm (all of these things are very good unless you are into flop sweat or numb fingers and toes) and you can actually find a serpentine belt at 9:00 PM on a Sunday at a gas station off I-95. Their DD's? An Lexus LS for her and a Shelby for him.

  • FreedMike Very nice.
  • Rna65689660 I am beginning to believe that manufacturers purposely make the top of doors hard so that we stop resting our arms on them. Getting T-boned with your arm there would result in 2 elbows on the same side of your body.
  • 1995 SC I'll hold out for the VW Tassos
  • Gsc65794753 Volvo parts were rediculously expensive. That's what I remember.
  • Creekrat85 The right to work on your own stuff shall not be abridged. It's common sense. It's unAmerican to be authoritarian. A corporate authoritarian? Isn't that fascism? If the government colludes with a corporate authoritarian to restrict owner's manuals or not to be allowed to show how to make simple repairs or you cannot buy the parts yourself? That's what is wrong. It's benign neglect of the government and it is at the heart of Boeing and their problems, so they let Elon do more of the same over at Tesla ?... The analogy is poor. None of us passengers are going for a wing walk to repair something on a 737 Max. Using John Deere and the farm equipment for the right to work on your own stuff is the better analogy .... Just say no to the corporate authoritarian fascists, wherever they roam...