Ineos Automotive has announced that a deal has been reached with German engineering firm MBtech for it to become its official partner in the Projekt Grenadier's development.
You might have heard of MBtech, founded in 1995 as Mercedes-Benz Technologies. Despite the name, the company works with a wide range of clients within the industry, including recently aiding Porsche with the development of the Panamera S E-Hybrid. MBtech will now, "take the lead on overall vehicle development overseeing all components of the upcoming 4x4."
Working to progress the initial design concept through to a fully engineered vehicle, 200 engineers from the German outfit will be responsible for producing the initial test mules and prototypes later this year, aiming to ensure that the Grenadier is a "truly rugged, reliable and uncompromising 4x4."
Henry Kohlstruck, Managing Director of MBtech, said: "All of us at MBtech are looking forward to getting involved in this once-in-a-generation opportunity to develop a truly uncompromising off-road vehicle. The next six months are where the real work will begin as we take all the design variables into account. Our key competencies lie in developing SUVs and 4x4s, and we are very excited to be given such freedom and responsibility to help complete a fantastic automotive project."
The revival of a quintessentially British car, backed by German engineering - where have we heard that before? Still, if it leads to the creation of a vehicle with the charm and style of the Land Rover, but the build quality and reliability of, well, anything else, it can only be something to look forward to!
By the time the final Land Rover Defender reached the end of the Solihull production line last year, its prolonged demise had been better documented than the fall of most empires. The model though had well-earned the theatrical spectacle of a factory floor strewn with photographers: that's what 67 years of heritage, engineering legitimacy and buyer adulation gets you.
The future though remains intriguingly uncertain. Land Rover will unequivocally replace the Defender - but the precise shape and nature of that car is a subject that rolls ruminatively around Gaydon like an imperial mint in the mouth of a distracted undergrad. Certainly it will not be exactly - or perhaps even vaguely - like the car it supersedes. And in that respect there are those who unhesitatingly feel like they could do better.
If that sounds like lunacy then it's worth relating that Ineos Automotive not only has some financial clout courtesy of its parent company, but that the product they're talking about is a decidedly niche-market prospect for (one would suspect) the type of buyer currently happy to pay upwards of £70k for a nearly new example of the last Defender - or more for a Twisted or Kahn Design version.
The Ineos Grenadier - a temporary name borrowed from pub where the idea was reputedly born - will not, of course, actually be a Defender (JLR takes a famously litigious view of anyone silly enough to colour inside its trademarked lines) but will instead borrow liberally from its idiosyncratic list of features: an aluminium body, steel coil suspension, four-wheel drive, very generous axle articulation and the separate ladder frame chassis made unfashionable by the industry's preoccupation with unitary construction.
Still, nowhere is the ground softer for such exploits than the UK. The Defenders enormous popularity notwithstanding, the buying public's affection for cottage-industry-style manufacturers is well established and Ratcliffe's team has made all the right noises: the Grenadier's off-road bias will not be softened for on-road comfort - the idea is obviously for it to be as loud and as granular and as charismatic as the car it seeks to spiritually replace. As statements of early intent go, it's an encouraging one.