Britain's Ineos Group, one of the world's largest chemical companies you've likely never heard of, is preparing to enter the auto industry with a new-from-the-wheels-up utilitarian SUV.
It's a boxy, rugged-looking, midsize four-by-four whose size and shape makes it a near doppelganger for the classic Land Rover Defender 110 wagon that ended production in 2016. And it could land in the U.S. in 2022.
The Grenadier's perhaps-too-strong resemblance to the iconic Land Rover could be a risky bet.
Jim Ratcliffe, the Richard Branson-esque chairman of Ineos Group, tried to buy the classic Defender's production tooling from Jaguar Land Rover in 2016 and continue production. When JLR declined, Ratcliffe, one of Britain's richest men, decided his company would build its own utilitarian SUV aimed it at the same market — adventurers, sportsmen, builders and farmers, a segment Ratcliffe believes Land Rover left in the dust with the 2020 Defender.
The new Defender, which has no carryover parts from the classic model, is just now arriving at U.S. dealers.
It's far more civilized, refined and advanced than the original agrarian Defender, a vehicle which traces its roots back to 1948.
When JLR learned Ineos was planning to build a vehicle similar to the classic Defender, company lawyers moved to trademark its shape. But last fall, a judge in Britain's Intellectual Property Office denied JLR's request, reasoning that the Defender's shape was not much different from other off-road vehicles. JLR is appealing that decision and has moved to protect the Defender's shape in other markets.