Jim Ratcliffe wants to build new puristic off-road vehicles


The return of the real SUV

Jim Ratcliffe wants to build new puristic off-road vehicles-off-road

There are still no pictures of the off-road vehicle that billionaire Jim Ratcliffe wants to build, but it is said to have rough edges – like the Land Rover Defender, which was produced in 2016 was discontinued

Source: Stefan Anker

While SUVs are selling brilliantly, real SUVs are dying out. A British billionaire refuses to accept this and is planning a puristic off-roader in the spirit of the Land Rover Defender.

E.r survived expeditions to the North Pole and the South Pole, rode a motorcycle through South Africa for months and plunged down the steepest slopes on skis. But Jim Ratcliffe‘s greatest adventure is still ahead of him: At the age of 64, the British entrepreneur became a car manufacturer.

Because while modern SUVs are chasing from one sales record to the next, Ratcliffe worries that classic off-road vehicles in the style of the Land Rover Defender, the Mercedes G-Class or the Toyota Land cruisers could soon become extinct because they no longer meet current emissions and safety standards.

With an uncompromising new building, he wants to ensure the continued existence of the threatened species. "It’s an incredibly exciting project," says the press-shy self-made billionaire. “We want the most puristic off-road vehicle of the world and are aimed at explorers, farmers and off-road enthusiasts all over the world. "

That sounds like a risky and expensive undertaking, but one should be careful not to dismiss the plan as the quirk of an eccentric globetrotter. Jim Ratcliffe may be an adventurer but not a dreamer. The engineer, born in Manchester in 1952, is one of the richest men in Great Britain and is considered a shrewd renovator.

Jim Ratcliffe wants to build new puristic off-road vehicles-wants

Jim Ratcliffe, the press-shy self-made billionaire, wants to build a purist off-road vehicle

Source: picture alliance / Photoshot

Ratcliffe has a knack for recognizing the value of things that others have long written off. 20 years ago he took over the starving chemical division of the mineral oil company BP and made it one of the largest chemical companies in the world through clever acquisitions and collaborations.

His company Ineos now has 17,000 employees, manufactures, among other things, plastics, solvents and synthetic oils and achieves an annual turnover of 40 billion dollars. Ratcliffe’s private wealth is recognized by the business magazine "Forbes" at $ 9.3 billion.

He seems to be just as systematic in developing his own off-road vehicle as he was in building his chemical empire. It was only after a six-month feasibility study came to a positive result that Ratcliffe officially acknowledged his plans.

In the meantime, he has founded the Ineos Automotive offshoot and appointed the plant manufacturer Dirk Heilmann, who was previously responsible for engineering and technology, as project manager and CEO. With a budget in the three-digit million range, the managing director of the new company division is supposed to get the billionaire’s dream car on the road, or rather on the gravel road, by the end of the decade.

"The end of the Defender leaves a void"

“The initial spark for this was actually the day in January 2016 when the last Defender was built at Land Rover in Solihull,” says Heilmann. That day Ratcliffe realized how thin the air had become for sturdy SUVs that could be repaired with a hammer and screwdriver if they got left in the bush.

The newfangled SUVs, on the other hand, are so crammed with electronics that they have become prone to breakdowns and highly sensitive diagnostic devices with special software are required even for the smallest repairs. “There are fewer and fewer cars with rough edges,” says Heilmann. "The end of the Defender leaves a void that we want to fill."

Jim Ratcliffe wants to build new puristic off-road vehicles-wants

Russia’s answer to the Defender: The Lada Niva has been built for 40 years and has a simple but almost indestructible construction

Source: Lada

In addition to the countless big city individualists and helicopter mothers who only drive their SUV to work, to the tennis court or to kindergarten, there are a lot of customers in the world for whom an off-road vehicle is not a lifestyle accessory, but rather a an essential means of transport through rough terrain. In remote parts of the world with bad roads there are cars like the Defender, the Toyota Land Cruiser, the Mercedes G-Class, the Jeep Wrangler or the Lada Niva indispensable.

At Land Rover, however, they are less enthusiastic about Ratcliffe’s plans. "If anyone builds a Defender, then it’s us," explains a company spokesman. The fact that production was discontinued after 68 years and more than two million vehicles 15 months ago does not change that.

Almost the next day, Land Rover began to buy up vintage cars from its own production, to restore them and to sell them under the label "Reborn" market. In addition, nobody in Solihull makes a secret of the fact that there will soon be a completely new Defender.

Ratcliffe wanted to take over the license for the Defender

According to head of design Gerry McGovern, work on the successor is already in full swing. A free rider like Ratcliffe is therefore the last thing the company can need, after all, it is difficult enough to develop an icon like the Defender without betraying the character of the original and annoying the purists.

Other carmakers are also walking on this fine line. The Fiat Chrysler subsidiary Jeep will introduce the next Wrangler later this year, and Mercedes plans to bring a new generation of the G-Class onto the market in autumn 2017.

The manufacturers know that these sturdy cars strengthen the brand’s reputation – and that they must change as little as possible in order not to damage the myth of indestructibility. But they also know that they have to bow to the zeitgeist a bit in order to sell so many cars that the investment in new editions is worthwhile. So it will come down to the fact that the terrain dinosaurs have to leave a few rough edges.

Jim Ratcliffe wants to build new puristic off-road vehicles-wants

The Mercedes G-Class is popular with foresters and art collectors. The new generation will hit the market in autumn 2017

Source: Daimler AG

That is exactly what Jim Ratcliffe feared. That’s why he took it into his own hands to build a car that doesn’t have any newfangled frills. Ratcliffe originally wanted to do the same thing as he did with his company takeovers: he buys old systems that are no longer profitable for the previous owner, and then somehow manages to get the business going again.

But when the Ineos boss wanted to take over the assembly line and the license for the Defender, Land Rover let him down. Since then, the billionaire no longer speaks of a replica, but of an independent new development, which is only inspired by the Defender and its conspecifics because it has the genes of a no-frills off-road vehicle.

The newcomer could not have just continued to build the Defender. Land Rover did not stop production because nobody was interested in the car or because it no longer fit into the portfolio.

New off-road vehicle should preserve old ideals

The British have drawn a line because the terrain dinosaur, the first generation of which rolled off the assembly line in 1948, was no longer able, with the best of will, to meet the safety standards and pollutant limits applicable in Europe.

Project manager Heilmann also knows this and therefore keeps a number of engineering offices and development service providers on their toes. You should first submit a so-called specification sheet and then deliver the construction for an affordable and resilient off-road vehicle that preserves the old ideals and meets the new standards – and then should sell around 20,000 times a year.

While Heilmann’s contractors are currently busy with construction drawings and looking for components such as engines or transmissions from suppliers or other vehicle manufacturers, he is already planning the production, which Ratcliffe would prefer to set up in England.

Jim Ratcliffe wants to build new puristic off-road vehicles-ratcliffe

The Toyota Land Cruiser has been built since 1951 and is popular in Africa, Latin America and the Arab world

Source: The Enthusiast Network / Getty Images

Heilmann is toying with contract manufacturing for a manufacturer with excess capacities. After all, there are enough of these in Great Britain. "If we cannot find a suitable partner, we do not shy away from investing in our own factory," says Dirk Heilmann.

The system manufacturer is of course aware that developing, producing and selling a car, including building a new brand, is not child’s play. Heilmann is certain, however, that anyone who can build a complex chemical factory out of the ground will also get automobile production up and running. "We would not have become one of the largest industrial groups in the world if we didn’t know what we could do with ourselves."

Jim Ratcliffe wants to build new puristic off-road vehicles-puristic

The Jeep Wrangler goes back to the Willys MB, which was developed for the American armed forces during World War II

Source: Jeep

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7 thoughts on “Jim Ratcliffe wants to build new puristic off-road vehicles”

  1. If you drive an old Defender (built in 1998) yourself, you can be very curious to see what a billionaire understands as puristic….

  2. Fake news.
    The vehicle pictured above is a Land Rover Series III. At the time this car was built, the word Defender didn’t even exist. I own and drive a series myself every day….

  3. That’s why I look after my Mercedes G with 83 Diesel KW and built in 1990. Total nearly 1,600,000 kilometers, 2nd engine, 2nd gearbox, a few rust spots restored 3 years ago, everything else is the same as it was before. since everything is built mechanically and no electronics, therefore unbreakable!
    This is how cars have to be built for use in the jungle, in the desert, etc. where ADAC + membership is not of any use

  4. Odd article. You differentiate yourself from lifestyle enthusiasts in SUVs and overlook the fact that by far the largest proportion of Defender drivers in Germany is precisely that. It is claimed that the Defender could absolutely no longer be trimmed to current emission limits, and for this very reason more and more sensitive diesel engines from other manufacturers have been installed there in the last 10 years, which comply with these specifications in principle. However, they were very unprofessionally integrated into the components, which are now typically unreliable in English vehicle construction because they are not quality-assured, so that the nickname "The English patient" is absolutely true. Apart from a few jokers, nobody goes on a big tour with something like that. It is more of an event vehicle for a barbecue excursion with like-minded people – with ADAC + membership, of course. But the billionaire has decided to do something if he wants to come close to the legendary reliability of a HZJ called a bush taxi. Not to mention the worldwide Toyota spare parts supply if something is damaged. Or is it again just a matter of commercial skimming of the lifestyle niche audience

  5. Great idea! I also want a no-frills car. Mourn my Mitsubishi Pajero. That was still an off-road vehicle. Apart from the air conditioning, I don’t want any luxury. Toyota also builds the old Landcruisers, unfortunately they have to raise around 50,000 €…

  6. Why not a Lada?
    Have rust protection done and have all problem areas observed and remedied during the new vehicle warranty. After the warranty has expired, gradually replace the known weak points with improved after-market parts.


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