The Ineos Grenadier may be a clean-sheet, bespoke hardcore 4×4 from a new brand, but its expected starting price looks reasonable considering its competitors.
The company’s new Australian operation told us this week of an “indicative” entry price of $84,500 before on-road costs for the base variant, with two more highly equipped grades expected to sit above it.
This entry RRP will apply to both petrol and diesel models, each covered by an unlimited mileage five-year warranty.
Australia is considered internally to be a “core launch market” for the ladder-frame, rigid axle Grenadier alongside Europe, the U.S and South Africa, meaning locals get the sort of priority access to vehicles many brands would crave.
Punters – be they tradespeople, mining fleets, keen 4×4 adventurers, people who tow, or whatever else – can place expressions of interest online from September 30 this year, which will put them first in line to configure and order a car from early 2022.
Production commences in France – at a former Daimler/Smart plant – in the third quarter of 2022 and first deliveries to Aussie customers are expected to arrive a few months later before the end of next year.
Ineos owns a chunk of the Mercedes F1 team, which may have given it the inside line on the factory acquisition.
How does this $84,500 RRP compare in context? There are fewer hardcore 4x4s around now, which was what prompted the UK’s richest man and old Land Rover Defender diehard Jim Ratcliffe to commission the Grenadier project.
On the more focused 4×4 front, the old-school-tough Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series GXL wagon is $71,500 before on-roads and a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon $69,950. On the other hand a Mercedes-Benz G400d costs $233,776.
The Grenadier’s price about equals a Land Rover Defender 110 D250, though the new vehicle is more sophisticated and less basic than the old car. The top-selling off-road 4×4 in the country, Toyota’s Prado, costs $87,807 in Kakadu spec level.
The Grenadier project is the brainchild of Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the British billionaire engineer and chairman of multinational petrochemical giant Ineos.
The official story says that Ratcliffe was hanging out in London’s Grenadier pub in 2017, bemoaning Land Rover’s decision to kill the old Defender and replace it with the more modern and luxurious new SUV model.
Ineos Automotive (Australia) Pty Ltd will be a factory-backed operation rather than an independent licensed distributor.
The company has appointed well-known auto executive Justin Hocevar to head up its Asia-Pacific operations. Mr Hocevar previously ran Mini Australia and Renault Australia, and was a senior executive at Jaguar Land Rover and BMW Motorrad.
It will establish a network of franchise dealers and service centres, but use an agency model – meaning it will own all its new and demo stock until the customer takes delivery, which means set prices and access to national inventory from anywhere.
Mr Hocevar says the Ineos sales agents will be appointed based on their expertise among target buyers, and not necessarily existing multi-franchise new car dealers.
They’ll be simple and stripped back affairs, integrated with a digital purchase process than can be done entirely online or offline, or somewhere in between.
“You could go full digital all the way through and really it’s just the handover as a physical interaction. Equally you could do all your research online, visit one of our agency partners – the physical manifestation of our retail presence,” Hocevar told us this week.
“… We are not asking for gin palaces and multi million dollar investments [from dealer partners]. Our view is, that just bloats the total cost of distribution to the point we’re passing on excess to a customer.
“That doesn’t result in a built-on-purpose high quality vehicle being passed on at the most attainable price. Our customers are kind of over this stuff… the Grenadier itself is the showroom.”
The company is expected to launch in Australia with about with 16 dealers, scattered in all capitals alongside a few regional centres. By the end of year three the goal is to more than double this and cover 98 per cent of the market.
Launch dealers already agreed on:
- Purnell in Sydney, NSW
- Brighton Automotive Holdings in Melbourne, VIC
- SLRV Expedition in Gold Coast, QLD
- Aaron Brain Motors in Shepparton, VIC
- Buckby Motors in Launceston, TAS
- John Oxley Motors in Port Macquarie, NSW
- Rex Gorell in Geelong, VIC
- Caravana in Brisbane, QLD
- Frasers in Newcastle, NSW
The benefit of using an agency type distribution model, according to Mr Hocevar, is that the cost of maintaining a fleet of demonstrators is borne by the OEM.
“We don’t think that test drives should take in urban environments on a 20 minute drive around city streets. We want to see Grenadiers get out, and people experience it in its natural environment,” he told us.
“We will in addition have a roadshow of vehicles traveling the country, to where people who are interested in this type of vehicle will be.”
For these remote wanderers, Ineos has also cut a deal with various Bosch Service Centres in remote areas. These mechanics will get training and the same access to parts and data as an official Ineos agent in bigger population centres.
“Where there are points where we don’t have our own sales and service network already, we need to further support our customers with service outlets in those locations. In that case our go-to can be a Bosch service centre,” Mr Hocevar said.
On the parts front, those who wish to work on their own vehicles will also be able to get technical support from Ineos HQ, and access to online interactive 3D workshop manuals and parts catalogues.
“We didn’t take some sort of procurement-led, cost-down focus on sourcing the lowest cost widget from around the globe. We went best in class to get the best solution possible,” said Mr Hocevar.
The company’s chief engineer says about 100 ‘2B’ prototypes are being put through their paces across 15 countries (including Australia) with extreme weather.
The ultimate goal is 1.5 million on-road and 300,000 off-road testing kilometres before sign-off.
The old Land Rover Defender lookalike will be sold as a body-on-frame 4×4 wagon at first, with low-range gearing, multiple diff locks, retuned BMW inline-six engines, and stripped-back off-road suspension, “designed and built to handle the world’s harshest environments”.
A box-section ladder frame up 4mm thick walls is expected to feature – no monocoque here.
The Grenadier is expected to have beam axles front and rear made by Italy’s Carraro, supplier to tractor-makers John Deere and Massey Ferguson. They’ll support multi-link suspension with separate long-travel Eibach coils and ZF dampers, and panhard rods.
There’ll also be permanent 4×4 rather than part-time, a mechanical transfer case for low-range, and diff locks front, centre and rear. Payload must be at least a tonne before the road cars are signed off, and the towing capacity target is 3.5-tonnes.
Engines will be supplied by BMW. Both are 3.0-litre inline-six cylinder donks, one that runs on petrol and the other on diesel. They’re codenamed B57 and B58 if you want to head to Wikipedia for more.
Both will be linked up to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission as the sole choice – a key difference from the manual-only LandCruiser 70 and old Defender.
The rationale is that fleet buyers want everybody to be able to drive their vehicles, and fewer people these days can drive three-pedal cars.