When I mention Ineos Grenadiers, you are probably thinking of the cycling team. His mind is likely to travel to the exploits of Thomas, Bernal, Van Baarle, Geoghegan Hart, a well-resourced squad of elite cyclists, trying to figure out how to get back to their former dominant position in the peloton.
Ask a car enthusiast about the Ineos Grenadiers and they are likely to have a very different answer. For them, it is the plural of a specific car, the Ineos Grenadier, naturally, from which the team takes its name, which takes its name of team owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s favorite pub. The team’s sponsorship was announced in August 2020, with a press release promoting Ratcliffe’s desire to promote “a highly capable and hard-working 4X4 vehicle, that was,” and I quote, “purpose built.” (Accidentally built cars rarely work well, in my experience.)
The Ineos Grenadiers (🚴) have had a bit of a difficult 2021, failing to win a Grand Tour for the first time since 2014. The Ineos Grenadiers (🚙) have also had a rough time, losing money at the pre-tax rate: €212M , taking its total losses to -€506M.
Of course, the company’s owner, Jim Ratcliffe, has plenty of money to spare: he’s the richest man in Britain, with an estimated personal wealth of £9.8bn (€11.2bn), but since the corporation Ineos lent almost a billion euros to its automotive industry. division last year, we are not talking about insignificant sums.
So how are things going for the Ineos Grenadier? No good. Present an act in four parts:
First things first, what does it look like.
It has a derivative design, borrowing heavily from the boxy styling of the Land Rover Defender, a move that brought Ineos to the UK High Court to defend its appropriation. (wonmostly because Land Rover had never moved to the trademark of the Defender form, which is something like them).
The fact that it’s a scam isn’t really in doubt, to the point where Land Rover enthusiast Ratcliffe even tried to buy the rights to the Defender and reportedly designed the Grenadier when Land Rover refused. This is not what I would call a moral victory.
That hurdle was clumsily removed, we move on to see if you can actually buy one.
Reader, you can’t. The release date has been and gone, multiple times. At first, they shot for 2021. Then, they shot for early 2022. Now, they’re taking pre-orders and they have a digital brochure, and maybe be able to start production at the end of this year. I am reliably informed that it cannot handle a PDF.
We then turn to the thorny issue of supply chain issues. Like many other corporations, Ineos is beset by COVID-19-related disruptions: a spokesperson told The Guardian last year that “like many carmakers, we are continually assessing the ongoing impact of these times. unprecedented… we do not comment on speculation and rumour.”
That same spokesperson also said that the company was “on the way”, to which I would reply speculatively, see #2 above.
Finally, we move on to the British character of this quintessentially British car, the passion project of a very British man who loves Britain.
In the wake of Brexit and a cavalcade of government blunders, that country has endured mixed fortunes on the world stage, if by ‘mixed’ I mean ‘bad‘ (And I do). In 2018, Ratcliffe pledged to build the Ineos Grenadier in Wales as a show of support for his homeland after Brexit. That decision, Ratcliffe said, would help the Grenadier “retain its British character.” Pro-Brexit Prime Minister Boris Johnson was keen on the idea, describing the Ratcliffe Welsh car plant as “a vote of confidence in the UK experience”.
Ratcliffe was, it’s worth noting, a vocal ‘Get Out’ campaigner, saying after the referendum that “there’s no room for weakness or falling apart at 3am when the going gets tough and most points are won.” or they are lost.” He also said that the UK will “prosper” without the EU bureaucracy (counterpoint: does not have).
Two interesting things happened next.
In September 2020, Ineos Automotive announced that the Wales plant would be scrapped. Instead, the company had bought a Daimler facility in Hambach, France, near the German border, that had previously been used to make whimsical smart cars. “Hambach presented us with a unique opportunity that we simply couldn’t ignore: to purchase a modern automobile manufacturing plant with a world-class workforce,” Ratcliffe said of the move.
A couple of months later, Ratcliffe made another “vote of confidence” in the UK by move to the tax haven of Monacosaving about 4,000 million pounds sterling (4,600 million euros) in taxes per year.
On the upside, that windfall can be reinvested in financing a four-wheel drive derivative that is an expression of Britishness built in the EU, financed by a pro-Brexit billionaire who left Britain shortly after be knighted by his business and investment services.
All of which takes us, very indirectly, back to the Ineos Grenadiers (🚴).
Like any other professional cyclist, you cannot choose your sponsor. This is a fact that they share with the representatives of authoritarian regimes, supermarket chains, luxury showers and lotteries.
What it is what’s uniquely comical about the Ineos Grenadier sponsorship is that the team’s riders are individually an Ineos Grenadier, and collectively known as a group of Ineos Grenadiers, with all those assorted Ineos Grenadiers riding for photos posing side by side, front and often on top. from another Ineos Grenadier. This is how we know you can fit seven Ineos Grenadier on one Ineos Grenadier, and that Ineos Grenadier have on occasion looked askance at another Ineos Grenadier. We also know, courtesy of Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos Grenadier origin story, that all of those Ineos Grenadiers have, at one time or another, been the subject of intense reflection while sipping a pint at the Grenadier.
Like car headlights, there’s something pleasingly circular about it.
Also like the car that sponsors them, the cycling team has had its challenges this year. But in the process, they have won fans with their courage and determination: Van Baarle’s win at Roubaix, Thomas’ podium finish at the Tour, Bernal’s return to racing.
And for bonus points, they’ve done all of that by diligently moving forward in promoting an expensive yet-to-be-released car that would make a mess of bikers, built to promote a failed empire. That is also a form of victory, I just don’t know who is winning.
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