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Monday, March 20, 2023

Report: future of Mini’s Oxford plant protected by £500m investment

BMW will safeguard the future of Mini‘s historic Oxford factory by way of a £500 million government-backed investment, a new report has claimed.

According to Sky News, the German manufacturer’s investment package includes roughly £75m in backing from the Automotive Transformation Fund. 

Production of the next-generation Mini Electric (now called the Cooper), developed in collaboration with Great Wall, will move to China. However, as previously reported by Autocar, the model will return to the Oxford line from around 2027, joining the petrol Cooper and convertible – the latter currently being assembled in the Netherlands.

Read more: 2024 Mini Convertible to be built at Oxford plant

“There are major investments taking place and going to take place,” Mini boss Stefanie Wurst told Autocar, hinting that a mid-life facelift due in around 2027 could provide an opportunity for the factory switch to happen.

Mini said in a statement supplied to Autocar: “With its high degree of flexibility, competitiveness and expertise, the Oxford plant plays an important role in the BMW Group’s production network.

“For the next Mini generation, Oxford will produce the majority of Mini models, the Mini Cooper three-door and five-door models, as well as the Mini Convertible – one of our most important vehicles and a worldwide bestseller.

“Any future production plans will be announced in due course. We do not comment on media speculation.”

Should it come to fruition, BMW’s investment will bring welcome reassurance for the 4000 people employed by Mini in the UK, amid a wider industry downturn.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which represents the UK’s automotive industry, warned in November 2022 that the window to protect it from existential threats – including protectionist trade policies and spiking energy costs – could close as soon as 2024.

The government needs to swiftly establish an action plan with investment into decarbonisation and electric vehicle infrastructure, the SMMT added. No such plan has yet been presented.

“If we get this wrong, we are talking about a lot more than 30 years of hurt,” SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes told guests at the organisation’s annual dinner in November.

Echoing this sentiment, Nissan chief financial officer Ashwani Gupta last month said the UK is becoming “more challenging” for car makers. The nation’s dwindling car output makes it harder to attract suppliers, said Gupta, which sets up a vicious cycle in which output falls even further.

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