A Brexit-backing billionaire has decided to build cars in France instead of Wales.
INEOS Automotive which is owned by Jim Ratcliffe, will build its 4×4 the Grenadier, at the Hambach site in Moselle after announcing it has bought a factory from Mercedes-Benz there.
The firm had previously said it was going to build the vehicle in Bridgend in a move that was expected to create 200 jobs initially and 500 in the long term. Work to clear the ground for a factory at the site had already begun.
When the move to Bridgend was announced the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Today’s announcement from INEOS will deliver hundreds of new jobs in Bridgend and is a vote of confidence in UK expertise, making sure we keep our status as a pioneer in new vehicle technologies.”
But the move to Bridgend was suspended after the company said some new options had “opened up”.
According to INEOS Group Chairman Jim Ratcliffe the Hambach site presented the company “with a unique opportunity” that it “simply could not ignore.”
At the time of the suspension, 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.
“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 also said it had invested “significant time and money” and would look to recoup costs from the company if it pulled out.
In response to the suspension, a UK government spokesperson 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.”
However, today the firm said: “We can confirm today that we have acquired the manufacturing facility at Hambach from Mercedes-Benz. Manufacturing at Hambach ensures we remain on track to meet our plans to deliver the Grenadier to customers in early 2022.
“Building the vehicle in Britain was always our intention and the plan was fully costed and deliverable. Of course, we understand there will be disappointment in the UK. But the business case for Hambach was overwhelming.”
INEOS Group Chairman Jim Ratcliffe said: “Hambach presented us with a unique opportunity that we simply could not ignore: to buy a modern automotive manufacturing facility with a world-class workforce.
“INEOS Automotive set out a vision to build the world’s best utilitarian 4×4, and at our new home in Hambach, we will do just that.”