LONDON -- UK petrochemicals company Ineos will source from BMW gasoline and diesel engines for its new Land Rover Defender-inspired SUV, which is scheduled to go on sale in 2021.
The BMW engines will be mounted longitudinally to deliver the bulk of the power to the rear axle of the 4x4 vehicle, considered the best layout for off-road capability. The exact engines have not yet been disclosed.
BMW said the supply deal opens up additional sales channels and taps new growth potential for the company. "We offer a broad range of premium, tailor-made drivetrain technologies and services for carmakers and other customers and believe this is a business area with real growth potential," BMW sales chief Pieter Nota said in a statement.
The contract foresees the delivery of a "high-range five-digit number of engines," BMW said.
The Ineos SUV is being developed by Stuttgart, Germany-based MBtech, which was founded by Daimler in 1995 and is still partly owned by the automaker.
Ineos plans to build between 25,000-30,000 of the vehicles annually. The SUV is targeted at drivers of high-spec double-cab pickups and will be priced similarly, Dirk Heilmann, CEO of Ineos Automotive, told journalists this week.
"We see it as putting U (utility) back into SUV," he said. The car would mostly be bought by those who need its off-road and towing ability, rather than leisure users, Heilmann said.
Ineos said the production location for the car has been narrowed down to the UK and one other location within western Europe. The decision will be announced "quite soon," Heilmann said, without elaborating.
Unused space within Ford's engine factory in Bridgend, south Wales, is one of the UK possibilities, the company said. Portugal has been reported as a potential production location.
"I don't think it matters that it's in UK, but it is the heart of the story. We are a UK manufacturing company," Heilmann said.
The company plans to build the SUV itself rather than out-sourcing it.
The car will be launched in Europe, Australia and Africa first, the company said. U.S. sales will follow later, but no date was given.
"From the point of view of homologation and other factors, it's wise to give the U.S. a longer run up," commercial director Mark Tennant said.
The SUV was conceived by Ineos CEO Jim Ratcliffe, described as Britain’s richest man, to fill a gap in the market for rugged SUVs after Land Rover axed the long-running Defender in 2016.
The statement by Ratcliffe, who dubbed his car 'son of Defender,' prompted Land Rover to apply to trademark the shape of the Defender, which Ratcliffe initially opposed.
Jaguar Land Rover has since said it does not object to competition from Ineos but indicated it will move to protect its intellectual property. Land Rover is relaunching the Defender as a modern off-road vehicle with sales starting next year.
Ineos now says its SUV, codenamed Projekt Grenadier after the London pub in which Ratcliffe first conceived the idea, will recall a variety of traditional off-roaders, including the original Jeep.
"If you go back to basics you will have a boxy 4x4 with a wheel on each corner and straight sides. I won't be surprised if people see the resemblance to other 4x4 vehicles," Heilmann said
The SUV will be built on a steel ladder chassis supplied by Ineos that makes it as effective as possible off-road as well as giving it a tow weight of 3500kg and the ability to carry up to a ton of weight. The company is expected to a introduce a double-cab pickup version of the car, but it has not decided on a short-wheelbase three-door, which was key part of the Defender vehicle range.
Prototype mules using the chassis are being tested by Magna in Austria, Heilmann said. The bodywork will be aluminum to save weight.
The interior is described as utilitarian and can be cleaned out with a hose, much like the original Defender.
Customers should not expect BMW levels of sophistication in terms of equipment, fit and refinement, Tennant said. "The parameters are going to be slightly different. The door doesn't need to shut like an X5 or X7," he said.