UK car manufacturing suffered another blow today after it emerged that Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos had made an official offer to buy a factory in France to build its new 4×4.
The billionaire was understood to have been in talks with the Welsh government to build a new factory in Bridgend for the car, a move that would have created 500 jobs.
It was hoped that the new site would help provide employment for the hundreds of workers due to lose their jobs when Ford closes its own factory in the town, which currently employs 1,700 people.
However, this afternoon the Telegraph first reported that the petrochemicals company had made an official offer to Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler to buy the plant in Hambach in north-east France.
Last month it was reported that the two firms had begun talks over the factory, which is near the border with Germany.
The loss of the Grenadier, which has been dubbed the “spiritual successor” to the Land Rover Defender, is another setback for the struggling UK auto market.
Welsh officials had already begun to clear land for the site for the production of the car, into which Ineos has poured £1bn in investment.
Back in July, Ineos’ automotive’s chief executive Dirk Heilmann said that the firm was reviewing whether it was wise to add new manufacturing facilities given the coronavirus pandemic.
The firm was also considering another factory in Portugal for the sub-assembly of the car.
“As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic some new options such as this one with the plant in Hambach have opened up that were simply not available to us previously”, he said.
“We are therefore having another look – and reviewing whether the addition of two new manufacturing facilities is the right thing to do in the current environment.”
In a statement, Ineos said: “Ineos Automotive is in exclusive talks with Mercedes-Benz about acquiring its manufacturing site in Hambach: we are confident that terms will be agreed.
“Ineos Automotive has submitted a binding purchase offer for smart France S.A.S of which a decision can only be taken once the talks with the employee representatives have also been concluded.
Hambach is a great solution for Ineos, with a highly experienced workforce and an excellent track record amongst Mercedes plants for the quality of its product output.’’