Ineos Automotive, the startup backed by petrochemicals giant Ineos, is close to finalizing the purchase of Daimler’s Smart plant in Hambach, France.
First announced in late August, Ineos Automotive’s intention to buy the factory located in eastern France is very likely to materialize in the coming weeks after unions approved the project.
Daimler announced this summer the intention to sell the plant as part of an overhaul of its production system. The facility, which employs about 1,600 people, currently builds the Smart EQ Fortwo electric minicar. However, production will move to China as Daimler announced in 2019 it will build the next-generation Smart vehicles from 2022 through a joint venture with Geely.
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Ineos announced it plans to build its upcoming Grenadier off-roader at the plant in a run of 25,000 units a year, starting in 2022. In a statement seen by Autonews Europe, the UK-based company said it was “delighted to have received the endorsement of the Workers’ Council and the unions at Hambach for our planned acquisition of the site from Mercedes-Benz”.
A final agreement should fall into place in the coming weeks, Ineos added. The French government has asked Daimler to continue to build Smart cars there until the UK carmaker starts building the Grenadier in Hambach – or, alternatively, provide other work to ensure continuity of employment.
In a statement, the workers’ committee said Daimler must offer assurances that it will continue some activities at the site before selling the factory to Ineos. At the same time, the union also expressed doubts that the Grenadier will be successful, as an ICE-powered vehicle “could be more difficult to sell in the second half of this decade.”