PLANS to build a new 4×4 vehicle plant in Bridgend have been put on hold by Ineos.
The new factory was expected to create about 200 jobs initially to make the new all-terrain Grenadier vehicle and a lot of work has gone into preparing suppliers to ensure the Welsh automotive industry benefited.
It was hoped it could employ up to 500 people in the longer-term, and work to clear ground at the site had already begun. The plant was planned to be developed next to the current Ford engine plant at Bridgend, which is to shut this autumn with the loss of 1,700 jobs.
In an announcement Dirk Heilmann, the chief executive of Ineos Automotive said:
“Some new options, such as this one with the plant in Hambach, have opened up that were simply not available to us previously,” and “We are therefore having another look – and reviewing whether the addition of two new manufacturing facilities is the right thing to do in the current environment.”
Mercedes-Benz put the Daimler car assembly plant in France up for sale last week and Ineos said its announcement follows talks with Mercedes-Benz over the acquiring of their Hambach site in Moselle, France.
It was dedicated to its smart car, called the EQ ForTwo, which has been recently developed and is a similar size to the Grenadier. The Ineos added it made the location “ideally suited” to the Grenadier.
The company also revealed that Covid-19 had also had an impact on its building schedule for the new plants.
The reactions from the Welsh and UK governments have been swift and critical of Ineos’s decision to put on hold the Bridgend development.
Economy Minister Ken Skates said it would be “a real blow if Ineos reneged on its very public commitment”.
“I have told the CEO that abandoning Bridgend at this late stage, after so much effort and money has been invested in preparing the site, would be a terrible decision for Wales and the UK,” said Mr Skates.
“We have impressed on the company in no uncertain terms the importance of honouring its commitment to Wales and to deliver on its promise to build a British icon here in Britain.”
The Welsh Government added it had invested “significant time and money” and would look to recoup appropriate costs from the company if it pulled out.
A UK government spokesman said: “Today’s news from Ineos is disappointing but we will continue to work alongside the Welsh Government to support the automotive industry in south Wales.”
The former Wales First Minister and Senedd Member for Bridgend, Carwyn Jones has been very forthright in his comments:
“I don’t accept for one minute that this had anything to do with COVID. This is a decision that they don’t want to invest in the UK – there’s nothing more to it in my opinion,”
“I’ve heard a lot of things in politics over the years, but I’ve never seen this before when a company says that they want to support the UK, but once the money’s on the table, that’s not what they do.
“I’m incredibly angry. There was an agreement and they’ve gone back on that.”