BMW to accelerate through Brexit crunch at electric Mini plant
The luxury carmaker is sticking with plans to build the electric car in the UK.
German automaker BMW will move ahead with plans to produce an electric version of its iconic Mini at a factory in Oxford from November, despite potential post-Brexit chaos in importing key components from the Continent.
While the e-Mini will be put together at the Cowley site, which employs around 4,500 people and already builds the conventionally fuelled Mini, the drivetrain — a crucial part transferring power to the car’s wheels — will still be imported from southern Germany.
The German carmaker said it planned to begin manufacturing the model, for both domestic and global sale, at the Cowley site later this year.
The first versions will be available to buy in the spring – by which time the UK should have left the EU, if the current timetable is maintained.
“The November start of production date [has] been in the plan for years and from long before the Brexit deadline reset, so this is no more than a coincidence,” Graham Biggs, a U.K.-based BMW director, said, adding that BMW would “have to work around” any potential disruption caused by a disorderly Brexit on October 31.
The e-Mini is a key component of BMW’s broader electric shift, which was recently ramped up to include at least 25 new models by 2023. Around 45,000 customers have registered interest in buying the car, according to Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, almost half of whom are in the U.K.
At present, BMW imports about €2 billion worth of car parts into the U.K. from the EU every year to feed its production. In advance of the previously expected Brexit date of March 29, BMW scheduled an annual maintenance shutdown to mitigate any expected disruption at major import terminals around April 1, a feat it doesn’t plan to repeat this time.
BMW Customs Manager Stephan Freismuth said earlier this year that stockpiling beyond just a few days would not be feasible either. “We are producing ‘just in time,’ and just in sequence,” Freismuth said.
The Mini’s heritage and DNA belongs well and truly to the U.K.
“The problem for BMW is that [the Mini’s] heritage and DNA belongs well and truly to the U.K.,” said Schmidt. “So the option to up sticks and shift the facility to mainland Europe doesn’t necessarily come into question.”
BMW celebrate an anniversary for MINI: The brand’s ten millionth vehicle rolled off the production line in Oxford.
The MINI Electric will be fully integrated into the production process at Oxford, running down the same lines as all the conventional models.
“This plant builds 1000 cars per day, with a new MINI coming off the line every 67 seconds, so the integration gives excellent production flexibility and allows supplies of the new model to be adjusted according to demand,” explained Plant
Oxford managing director, Peter Weber, “This is such a proud moment for every single one of our team.”
Instantly recognisable as a three-door MINI Hatch, the MINI Electric blends the timeless appeal of the design and go-kart handling with the latest in cutting-edge, zero-emissions powertrain technology and in-car connectivity.