LONDON (Reuters) - Billionaire Jim Ratcliffe has handed the engineering contract for his new Defender-style 4x4 vehicle to a German firm partly owned by Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler (DAIGn.DE).
Ratcliffe’s petrochemicals firm INEOS said last year it would build an off-roader modelled on Land Rover’s classic Defender, its first foray into automotive production.
INEOS said on Wednesday over 200 German engineers at MBtech, which was founded by Daimler in 1995, will be working full-time on the project in Stuttgart by the spring of this year.
“We have found a quality partner in MBtech who we believe have the competency, talent, and foresight to enable us to deliver a high-quality vehicle to the market,” said INEOS Automotive Chief Executive Dirk Heilmann.
“This deal will bring together German engineering and British entrepreneurship to create a truly formidable off roader,” he said.
Britain’s biggest automaker Jaguar Land Rover (TAMO.NS) stopped producing the Defender, known the world over and with famous owners including Queen Elizabeth, in 2016 after 68 years and plans to introduce a next generation version.
It has said it does not object to competition from INEOS but will monitor any actions in relation to its intellectual property.
Ratcliffe hopes to begin production of the off-roader from 2020-21 but has yet to announce where it will be built.
Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Adrian Croft