The British petrochemical giant Ineos has signed an agreement with Daimler to buy the German automaker’s factory in Hambach, France, where it will build the Grenadier 4x4 starting at the end of 2021.
Terms were not disclosed, but Daimler will contract with Ineos to produce the Smart ForTwo electric minicar at Hambach until 2024 as well as components for Mercedes-Benz models, the automaker said Tuesday in a news release.The deal had been in the works since the summer.
"Manufacturing at Hambach ensures that Ineos remains on track to meet its plans to deliver the Grenadier to customers in early 2022," Ineos said in a statement.
The agreement will preserve more than 1,300 jobs at the site, where about 800 people currently work in production and another 800 for suppliers and in other support positions.
Ineos is aiming for annual production of about 25,000 units of the Grenadier, a large SUV similar to the body-on-frame Land Rover Defender 110 that was discontinued in 2016.
Ineos teams plan to start work at the site as early as January, Smart and union representatives told the French website Usine Nouvelle on Tuesday.
Ineos has drawn criticism for not building the Grenadier in the UK. The company defended the decision on its Twitter account on Tuesday, saying that it had been "our intention" to build the vehicle in Britain, "but the business case for Hambach was overwhelming."
Unions at the factory approved the sale several weeks ago, despite concerns about the sustainability of building a large internal combustion engine vehicle at a time when European emissions standards continue to tighten.
The Hambach factory, known as Smartville in France, was inaugurated in 1997 in a ceremony attended by President Jacques Chirac of France and Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany.
Production reached a high of about 140,000 in 2008; in 2019 about 70,000 vehicles were built there, according to research company Inovev.