The UK’s richest man, expat Brexit supporter Jim Ratcliffe, has enlisted Germany’s BMW to supply engines for a “British” successor to the Land Rover Defender, after handing the vehicle design contract to another German firm last year.
Ineos, the chemicals company Ratcliffe founded in 1998 that is responsible for his estimated £21bn fortune, said BMW had joined a partnership aiming to build an “uncompromising” new 4×4 vehicle.
It called the tie-up with BMW a “major step forward” in its plans, called Projekt Grenadier, to build a vehicle to be marketed to customers around the world.
Dirk Heilmann, the chief executive of Ineos Automotive, said: “This technology partnership is a very significant milestone for Projekt Grenadier.
“We are delighted BMW Group will supply engines for our new off-roader. Its reputation as a maker of extremely reliable, high performance engines that offer total durability, efficiency and quality is second to none.
“Simply put, it builds the best engines in the world. Working with BMW Group is another major step forward in ensuring we deliver on our vision to build an uncompromising 4×4 with the ultimate in engineering integrity.”
Ineos announced a year ago that the Stuttgart-based engineering firm MBtech would “take the initial design concepts through to a fully engineered vehicle … followed by prototypes” that will be produced in 2018 in Germany.
The company also refused to guarantee that it would make the car in the UK, where the automotive sector has repeatedly warned about the dangers of Brexit, of which Ratcliffe, who lives in Monaco, is one of the UK’s highest-profile backers.
Ineos said in February 2018 that it was evaluating a number of options for full-scale production of the vehicle in the UK and abroad.
Ratcliffe said the UK was his number one choice for a £600m production facility, but only if the government subsidised the venture, which he said would create 10,000 jobs.
“We’d like to retain the Britishness and have a bit of passion about UK manufacturing,” he told the Sun. “We believe that Britain can produce something as reliable as Germany or Japan if we do it well.”