A blow for Wales (where Ford is closing its engine plant) but good news for 1,300 Smart and supplier workers in France

A blow for Wales (where Ford is closing its engine plant) but good news for 1,300 Smart and supplier workers in France

Automotive startup Ineos, which had been planning a plant in Wales, has bought the former Smart plant in Hambach from Daimler's Mercedes-Benz.

Daimler said the "effects from the sale" were already booked in the second and third quarters of 2020.

Ineos Automotive acquired all shares in Smart France and will take over the plant "in the coming weeks after the final details have been clarified".

Daimler claimed that, based on the negotiations regarding the future of employees and continuation of production at the Hambach plant, "no significant negative effects are expected in the fourth quarter of 2020, which weigh on the earnings of Mercedes-Benz Cars & Vans".

Production of the current two-seat Smart EQ electric vehicles continues.

Top Daimler executive Markus Schaefer said: "Together with social partners, government representatives and the buyer, Ineos Automotive, we have found a viable solution for Hambach that offers the facility clear prospects for the future." 

Daimler claimed the deal secured jobs at Smart France and those of system suppliers at the facility who accepted job offers - about 1,300 employees all up.

Reuters said billionaire Jim Ratcliffe's petrochemicals company Ineos had ditched plans to build a factory in Wales and would manufacture its first car in France after the deal went through.

Ineos had said in September 2019 it would assemble the Grenadier offroader in Wales, creating up to 500 jobs, with a new plant in Portugal supplying the body and chassis.

But last July it announced it was reviewing the investments due to the COVID-10 pandemic presenting "opportunities in terms of existing manufacturing capacity that were not previously available to us".

"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," Ratcliffe said in a statement cited by Reuters.