Ineos Group, the British chemical and materials company bringing the rugged BMW-powered Grenadier SUV to North America in the spring of 2023, will begin taking orders on Sept. 30.
The company says 63,000 people have expressed an interest in the boxy off-road vehicle globally, with 12,000 of those in North America. Now the company wants to see who's serious about buying a retro-looking utility vehicle that is aimed at fans of stripped-down, classic SUVs such as the original version of Land Rover Defender.
Those people who signalled interest will be given a two-week opportunity to place a $450 deposit on a vehicle. After that, reservations will open to all customers, Ineos' North American Executive Vice President Greg Clark told Automotive News.
Speaking of the $450 deposit, Clark said: "We definitely want an expression of real interest, and we feel with small amounts you can get lots and lots of speculation."
Ineos is different from most other startups. Money is not a concern for the company; it is one of the world's largest chemical manufacturers and its leader, Jim Ratcliffe, is considered the richest man in the United Kingdom.
"This is not an exercise in crowdfunding by any stretch of the imagination," Clark said.
But while Ineos supplies resins to the auto industry, at this point prototype vehicles being tested are made of aluminum and steel.
Ineos has been moving at warp speed to build out a service and parts network and to select retailers for the U.S., Canada and Mexico and have them up and ready for business in time for launch.
The company said Sept. 28 that its U.S. headquarters will be in Raleigh, N.C. Clark said that Raleigh is within close proximity to ports and off-road terrain that can be used to demonstrate the vehicle's capabilities, and it also is in an appealing geographic location, which should make recruiting employees experienced in importing vehicles easier.
With the first deliveries about 20 months away, Clark has been interviewing dealers, working on the details of what Ineos' showrooms will look like and setting up a nationwide service network.
Here are Ineos' plans on how it will lay the groundwork for the Grenadier launch, according to Clark:
• In the U.S. and Canada, Ineos will award franchises to individual dealers or to dealership groups with strong regional footprints. It's possible, Clark said, that the company could award certain territories to large national dealership chains. But the goal is to keep the number of dealers and regional distributors small and manageable. The company is looking for around 40 points at launch.
• Clark estimates that dealers will need to invest in the "low six figures" for an Ineos showroom that can accommodate between one and three vehicles to start and possibly as many as six when the company adds new models.
"What we've learned so far is that customers are not impressed by palace showrooms. They want to be able to speak one-to-one with people who are as enthusiastic and passionate about 4x4s and the lifestyle as they are," Clark said. "I want [dealers] investing their money in great people, in great training to deliver a great customer experience."
• Ineos is working with global auto supplier Robert Bosch GmbH to add factory-authorized service points in areas where there are no dealerships. Bosch has a nationwide network of independent service centers. It's also possible that dealership groups with BMW franchises will be able to service the Grenadier. Clark says Ineos is in talks with BMW on the matter. The company aims to deliver parts to service centers anywhere in the U.S. within 24 hours.
• Ineos likely will appoint one or two distributors in Mexico who will be responsible for all aspects of the Grenadier's sales, marketing and service.
About 4,000 potential customers have ridden in early versions of the SUV, and the company has logged about 1.2 million test miles. A former Daimler plant in Hambach, France — near the French-German border — is now being run by Ineos to prepare for full production of the Grenadier.
The vehicle will launch late in 2022 in Europe, then North American exports will begin. The Grenadier likely will be covered by a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, Clark said. "We absolutely believe in this vehicle," he added, "and stand behind it."