London – Chemicals giant Ineos is moving into the car industry after its billionaire founder spied a gap in the market for an ‘uncompromising’ 4x4 vehicle.
Ineos - which also hopes to frack in the UK - plans to pump hundreds of millions of pounds into creating the Land Rover Defender’s successor.
It is pulling together a team with hopes of producing thousands of vehicles per year at a new plant in Britain.
Billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, the company’s Manchester-born founder, said: "This is a fantastically exciting project. We want to build the world’s purest 4x4 and are aiming it at explorers, farmers and off-road enthusiasts across the globe."
The last Defender was built at the Jaguar Land Rover plant in the West Midlands last year. More than 2 million have been produced in 68 years.
Ratcliffe, who drives a Defender, added: "I am a great admirer of it and have enormous respect for its off-road capability. Our new 4x4 has been inspired by it." Private company Ineos is best known for producing chemicals used in paints, medicines, mobile phones and plastics.
It also produces gas from the North Sea and hopes to produce shale gas in the UK.
Ratcliffe has spoken of a "gloomy" future for UK manufacturing unless the country exploits its shale gas reserves.
His car venture could create hundreds of jobs - but the London-based company would not commit to those positions being in the UK.
"We have a preference for doing this in the UK which would inevitably be in the north," said corporate affairs director Tom Crotty. "The infrastructure is there, the distribution is good."
Ineos aims to sell its vehicle for around £50 000 (R817 500).