Jim Ratcliffe, the tycoon that runs Britan’s Ineos chemical company, has launched Projekt Grenadier as an effort to build his own off-road-oriented SUV, taking major inspiration from the currently out of production Land Rover Defender. If the plan goes perfectly, production could begin as soon as 2020, which would put the arrival just a year after LR’s own revival of the famous model.
Ratcliffe previously tried to buy the rights to the Defender from Land Rover, but the automaker decided that the model was too important to the company’s history. Now, Ratcliffe hopes to build his own version that would maintain the vehicle’s off-road legacy but with improved reliability and better build quality.
Gallery: Land Rover Defender 2,000,000 to be exhibited at Bonhams London
“There have been no great fallings out, just sensible conversation,” Ineos director Tom Crotty told Autocar in February 2017 about discussions with Land Rover. “We’re not out to produce a copy, we’re out to produce a new vehicle that is filling a space that the Defender used to fill.”
Technical details are still scant about Projekt Grenadier’s vehicle. Earlier reports suggested it would use a diesel engine and a body-on-frame chassis. The company has projected base price for the SUV at around 25,000 pounds ($33,740 at current exchange rates).
At this point, Projekt Grenadier is still looking for backing for the undertaking, and the company isn’t showing a design for the Defender-inspired model yet. It also isn’t clear how Ratcliffe would build the vehicle. The most expensive plan would necessitate government support and would involve constructing a completely new factory for the model. Alternatively, the firm could build its assembly line in an existing auto factory or simply contract with a third party to handle the construction.
Ratcliffe would like to build 25,000 unitsof his off-road SUVs a year, and he intends to invest $800 million (600 million pounds) into the project, according to Reuters. Ideally, he wants to construct the vehicles in the U.K., but only if it’s financially viable.
According to Reuters, Ratcliffe can’t copy the Defender too closely because Land Rover has a trademark registration currently in process in the United Kingdom for the vehicle's design. However, models like the Jeep Wrangler, Mercedes-Benz G-Class, Suzuki Jimny, and vintage Toyota Land Cruiser show that there’s plenty of room to iterate on the shape of a boxy, off-road-oriented SUV.