These days, if you don’t start your own car company, are you even really a billionaire?
British engineer-turned-businessman Jim Ratcliffe joined the industry when his chemical processing giant Ineos decided to extend an arm into auto, detailing a “rugged, uncompromised off-roader” that they hoped to begin building by the end of the year.
But Ineos faced a few challenges along the way, including waffling on where the vehicles would be built as Brexit complicated the decision.
But the biggest issue, perhaps, is with the design of the new Ineos Grenadier. Upon kicking off the endeavor, Ratcliffe’s company acknowledged it was inspired by the once discontinued — but since resurrected — Land Rover Defender. Unfortunately, Tata Motors, the owners of Jaguar Land Rover, seem to believe the Grenadier’s design is a little too familiar.
The Grenadier is a big, boxy SUV that Bloomberg describes as evoking “African safaris and excursions through the Australian outback.” And perhaps it was this familiar shape that sent Jaguar Land Rover seeking trademark rights in the U.K. for its Defender design, although this week a court ruled that JLR can’t actually secure those rights — declaring that the shape itself isn’t distinct enough to be exclusive.
This clears the way for Ineos to produce the Grenadier unfettered by IP constraints in its native U.K. JLR says it’s disappointed in the ruling, and cites trademarks in several other markets. Meanwhile, Ineos has released a statement of its own, saying it’s continuing with its launch plans and is excited to bring its vehicle to market next year.
All that said, the challenges facing Ineos aren’t exactly extinguished. Ratcliffe has had to defend himself against accusations that the Grenadier is nothing more than a vanity project, while other analysts contend that the 4x4 market is already too crowded, and that Ineos will face some stiff competition.