A rugged new 4x4 ute and wagon set to launch in Australia next year will target buyers who have been “left behind” by car makers building increasingly road-oriented soft-roaders at the expense of off-road ability.
That’s the view of Justin Hocevar, a 20-plus-year auto industry veteran and soon-to-be appointed local head of sales and marketing for INEOS Automotive, manufacturer of the INEOS Grenadier 4x4.
Mr Hocevar laid out plans for the introduction to the Australian and New Zealand markets of the new brand with two launch models comprising a dual cab ute and five-door wagon.
In the four years since INEOS first revealed its plans to build a 4x4 rival for the likes of the Land Rover Defender and Toyota 70 Series, the company has been busy securing manufacturing facilities, building prototypes and developing plans for selling and servicing the vehicle worldwide.
Billed as a modern-day, no-nonsense 4x4, the Grenadier is said to have been conceived over a pint in a London pub of the same name by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a car enthusiast, adventurer, and chairman of multi-national Petro-chemical company the INEOS Group.
“The Grenadier project started by identifying a gap in the market, abandoned by a number of manufacturers, for a utilitarian off-road vehicle,” Sir Jim said when announcing the new model in 2017.
“This gave us our engineering blueprint for a capable, durable and reliable 4x4, built to handle the world’s harshest environments.”
Working with a senior team of automotive professionals, Sir Jim now heads up of one of the world’s newest global auto makers, INEOS Automotive Limited, which plans to have its first Grenadier 4X4 vehicles on sale here by late 2022.
The company is a subsidiary of INEOS Group, a manufacturer of petrochemicals, speciality chemicals and oil products, which employs 22,000 people across 34 businesses, with a production network spanning 183 manufacturing facilities in 26 countries.
With styling that bears more than a passing resemblance to the previous-generation Land Rover Defender, the Grenadier’s exterior design is intended to convey the message that it’s a stripped back, hard-working 4x4.
The vehicle promises to combine “rugged British spirit and design with German engineering rigour”, according to statements from INEOS Automotive, which plans to build “a truly uncompromising 4x4” that’s engineered to “provide best-in-class off-road capability, durability, and reliability to those who depend on a vehicle as a working tool”.
Initially available as a dual-cab ute and five-door station wagon, the Grenadier vehicles boast aluminium body panelling over a full steel ladder-frame chassis, beam axles and long-travel coil spring suspension.
Powertrains are BMW-sourced six-cylinder turbo-petrol and diesel engines, while the 4x4 drivetrain has been developed in collaboration with Austrian-based automotive engineering specialist Magna Steyr.
Despite being conceptually British, the Grenadier will be manufactured at a former Smart car factory in Hambach, France, which the company purchased form Mercedes-Benz in late 2020, with servicing to be provided worldwide at the aftersales outlets of German automotive giant Bosch.
In May of this year INEOS Automotive announced the latest-generation Grenadier prototypes had passed a key engineering gateway, following gruelling tests in the trails of the Schöckl mountain, near Magna Steyr’s Austrian headquarters.
The company has previously stated the Grenadier’s testing program will involve more than 130 second-phase prototypes accumulating 1.8 million kilometres in extreme environments around the world, including cold weather engine calibration in northern Sweden, along with hot weather testing in Death Valley in the USA, and Morocco.
A single Grenadier prototype also recently arrived in Australia for testing and display purposes.
INEOS Automotive said it was in the process of striking agreements with retail and aftersales partners around the world, including Australia, with the aim of establishing up to 200 sales and service points globally for the vehicle’s July 2022 launch.
“These partners will implement a first-class global aftersales blueprint developed by INEOS together with Robert Bosch GmbH over the last three years,” a media statement said.
“Retail partners will form the backbone of the service network, with additional geographical coverage provided by hand-picked Bosch Car Service outlets.”
Mr Hocevar said the company planned to have 16 retail sites in operation ahead of launch, supplemented by Bosch aftersales outlets as required.
Promising “no gin palaces”, Mr Hocevar said the brand’s retail environment would feature “a straightforward pragmatic approach that is commensurate with the brand”.
“Grenadier is the hero of the showroom and we will focus heavily on that,” he said.
Outlining plans for a total of 34 retail outlets and an extensive Australia-wide network of sales and service network by 2024, Mr Hocevar said the company would focus on ensuring owners had access to parts and service even in remote locations, where many Grenadiers are likely to operate.
INEOS claims some 75,000 people “raised their hands” as prospective buyers of the vehicle.
Online reservations will initially be opened to this group, and from 14 October reservations will be open to everyone else, the company said.
“If preferred, customers in our main markets will be able to buy their Grenadier online, including organising vehicle finance and handling any part exchanges,” Commercial Director at INEOS Automotive Mark Tennant said.
“But we fully accept that most will want to try before they buy, for which having an extensive network on the ground is essential.”
Mr Hocevar confirmed that demonstration models would be available in Australia for customers and said the first Australian deliveries of the Grenadier were set to begin in July 2022, with prices starting from $84,500 (RRP).
The vehicles will come with a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty and five-year service plan plus roadside service for duration of warranty, he said.
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