BMW chooses UK for new electric Mini plant

The 'net zero' future of the UK's automotive industry received its latest boost on Monday when German car giant BMW announced a £600 million investment in plant to build a new generation of electric Mini cars.

BMW Oxfordshire Mini production factory
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Fears that the company could switch electric Mini production to China were quashed when the company announced new production lines would be built at its Cowley, Oxfordshire, factory along with new logistics centres at both Cowley and at its Swindon body panels plant.Government officials admitted the BMW decision had been encouraged by a "multi-million" state subsidy, which media reports put at £75 million.

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Latest developments in the UK's automotive sector

Announcement of the new facilities secured the future of about 4,000 employees and came at the end of a summer of major developments in the future of the UK's 'green' auto industry.Earlier this month, production at the nation's first all-electric vehicle plant began at the Stellantis factory at Ellesmere Port, Cheshire; in July, India's Tata Group – owners of Jaguar Land Rover – announced a £4 billion investment in a car battery 'gigafactory' in Somerset, creating 4,000 jobs; and Ford has announced substantial investment in electric car production at its plant in Halewood, Merseyside.Government-funded investment to secure such projects in the face of stiff international competition is considered vital. Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme: "The automotive sector is one that is very critical to the UK economy and it is facing headwinds, so ensuring we're able to sustain it with continual investment in the industry is fantastic."We do have to do some investment ourselves as government, that is standard, and we’re competing against countries from all around the world as well as the EU, and we are winning. We’re not doing anything out of the ordinary.”

More good news for UK electric-car manufacturing

In a statement, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described BMW's plans as "another shining example of how the UK is the best place to build cars of the future".Milan Nedeljkovic, BMW’s board member responsible for production, said the firm's investment would enable the development of the new generation of electric Minis and "set the path for purely electric car manufacturing in the future".Stefanie Wurst, head of the Mini brand, added: “Mini has always been aware of its history – Oxford is and remains the heart of the brand. I am delighted that the two new, fully electric Mini models – the Mini Cooper and Mini Aceman – are also being produced in Oxford, thereby confirming our path to a fully electric future."The continuing high demand for our locally emission-free vehicles shows the openness of the global Mini community to electro-mobility, which we will be able to serve optimally, also thanks to Oxford."David Bailey, professor of business economics at Birmingham Business School, welcomed the BMW announcement as "very good news" for the UK auto industry."The UK needs to shift towards EVs quickly. The 2035 deadline (banning the sale of new hybrid vehicles) is approaching," he said."It has been lagging behind other countries, not just in terms of battery production, but also in terms of EVs...but with the recent announcements, things are going in the right direction."Mike Hawes, chief executive of the UK's Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, called the announcement a "vote of confidence" in the auto manufacturing industry."Not only does it secure the long-term future of the home of one of the world's most iconic brands, it also demonstrates once again our capabilities in electric vehicle production," he said."Investments such as this improve productivity and help deliver jobs, growth and economic benefits for the country."

Jobs secured in Oxfordshire

Liz Leffman, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said BMW's plan was not only "fantastic" news for thousands of workers and their families, but for the fight against climate change, too."An investment of this scale shows the faith being placed in Oxford to produce the latest all-electric, emission-free models of this iconic car which is synonymous with the city," she said."The future of motoring is electric, and the future of Mini manufacturing is here in Cowley, where it began in 1959. Oxford has a long and proud history of car production, and this investment will see it continue for many years to come, producing cleaner, greener cars which won’t pollute our streets or contribute to climate change by burning fossil fuels."BMW’s role at the heart of Oxford for more than 20 years has helped the whole county’s economy thrive, and we are grateful that this relationship is going to continue and flourish."

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