Ineos Owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe with his Land Rover Defender - image: Autocar

Speculation is growing that Ineos Automotive, a subsidiary of British chemicals company Ineos which is owned by UK billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is set to bring much-needed automotive jobs to Bridgend.

The move will be a breath of fresh air for workers at the town’s Ford engine production site after Ford announced their decision to close the plant in 2020.

Ineos Automotive has been reportedly considering Bridgend as a production centre for some time.  The company are looking for a production base to build their Projekt Grenadier, a modern alternative to the discontinued Land Rover Defender, and representatives visited the site earlier this year as part of a European fact finding mission to decide on a production base for the new vehicle.

Founder and CEO Jim Ratcliffe said of the company’s production plans:

“This is a fantastically exciting project,” Ratcliffe said. “We want to build the world’s purest 4×4 and are aiming it at explorers, farmers and off-road enthusiasts across the globe.”

Ineos said it “is determined that the vehicle will not only fill a gap in the market vacated by the Defender but also provide a step-change improvement in build quality and reliability”.

Ratcliffe added:

“I am a great admirer of the old Defender and have enormous respect for its off-road capability, and our new 4×4 has been inspired by it. But while our off-roader might share its spirit, our new car will be a major improvement on previous models.”

The Mail on Sunday speculated that production will take place at a plant next to the Ford factory in the town, which is set to close in 2020.  Work has already begun on preparing a 116-acre site in Bridgend for employment space covering more than 70,000 sq m, adjacent to Brocastle Brook, supported by £10m funding from Welsh Government (including £6m of EU funding), although nothing specific regarding Ineos was announced when work commenced.  Reports suggest the company will choose between a potential site in Portugal or Bridgend, with Bridgend as the preferred option.

When work began on the site earlier this year, Economy Minister Ken Skates said:

“This is one of several significant employment sites which the Welsh Government will be bringing forward to enable the development of modern business space, which is so badly needed to create jobs and support our economy.

“One of the challenges we face in providing good-quality jobs is ensuring the right business space is available at the right location. Sites like this in Brocastle, which is ready for development and well-connected to local infrastructure, are essential in meeting out ambitions.

“I am pleased we’re now in a position to appoint contractors for the Brocastle site. They will undertake the vital work to provide the infrastructure and services necessary for the development of the site, providing valuable jobs in the construction phase and helping to make the site an attractive proposition for businesses.”

Nothing has yet been officially announced by either the Welsh Government or Ineos, however on Radio Wales last week, Mr Skates said he was “very excited about the possibility of attracting new automotive manufacturers to Bridgend”.