Ineos Automotive could ditch Welsh factory and buy Smart plant in France

New 4x4 maker in “detailed discussions” with Daimler over purchase of French plant

Ineos Automotive is rethinking its plans to build a factory in Wales to assemble its newly-revealed Grenadier 4x4.

The new plant was expected to be built in Bridgend near the Ford factory that’s set to close its doors later this year with the loss of 1,700 jobs. The Ineos plant was expected to provide up to 500 much-needed jobs in the area.

Now, though, Ineos has confirmed that it is investigating an alternative – Daimler’s factory in Hambach, France, which produces Smart models and which the German company confirmed it was to sell earlier this month.

Rumours about Ineos’s intentions in South Wales have been circulating for a while due to a lack of action at the site in Bridgend – said by Ineos to be due to a lack of available materials due to Covid-19. A question was also asked of the Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford in his daily Covid briefing on July 3.

Now the company has confirmed that it is in detailed discussions with Daimler about its Hambach factory in north east France.

The French factory is set to close as part of a wide-ranging restructuring plan by Smart and Mercedes owner Daimler, although a sale of the plant is the preferred option. It currently produces Smart ForTwo models and employs around 1,600 people. Daimler plans to move Smart production from France to China as part of its cost-cutting measures.

Speaking to Auto Express, Ineos Automotive’s commercial director Mark Tennant confirmed that a number of options had become available and that discussions were taking place over the Hambach factory as “the right thing to do for the business”. He stressed, however, that no decision had yet been made.

Tennant also said that any decision was not based around the potential impact of tariffs being introduced in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Ineos Automotive’s Grenadier model is being developed by Magna and will use BMW six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines – which might have been subject to import tariffs if the 4x4 was to be built in Wales.

First Grenadier deliveries are due in 2022, so production ramp up will have to begin at an Ineos Automotive plant next year.

Would the Ineos Grenadier lose any appeal if it was built in France rather than Wales? Let us know in the comments...

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