Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the chemicals tycoon and one of the outspoken billionaire backers of Brexit, has turned his back on the UK with plans to build his new version of the Land Rover Defender on the Continent.
In a snub to hundreds of automotive workers in south Wales, who had been led to believe that Sir Jim would at least partly manufacture his Grenadier off-road prototype close to a former Ford works near Bridgend, the boss of the Ineos chemicals empire has decided instead on an old Mercedes-Benz factory on the German-French border.
Sir Jim said the Grenadier would now “combine rugged British spirit and design with German engineering rigor”.
Previously Sir Jim, 68, a Monaco-based tax exile who is reckoned to be worth £17 billion, had looked at producing the Grenadier at plants in south Wales and Portugal. The Welsh government is reported to have spent £5 million of “enabling” investment in the summer before the first signs that Ineos was not going ahead with the factory in south Wales.
At present, the plant assembles Smart electric cars and Ineos will buy the factory and continue to assemble Smart cars for Daimler on a contract-manufacturing basis.
The commercial proposition of taking over a ready-made, state-of-the-art plant-like Hambach rather than create start-up facilities in the UK as previously envisaged was “overwhelming”, Ineos said.