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Electric Mini to be built in Oxford

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A fully electric version of the Mini will be built at the Cowley plant near Oxford, BMW has confirmed.

The carmaker said the model would go into production in 2019, with Oxford the main “production location” for the Mini three-door model.

However, the electric motor will be built in Germany before being shipped to Cowley for assembly.

BMW said it had “neither sought nor received” any reassurances from the UK on post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Last year, the government faced questions about the “support and assurances” given to Nissan before the company announced that new versions of its Qashqai and X-Trail would be made in the UK.

And there have been reports that Toyota agreed to invest in the UK after receiving a letter reassuring the Japanese carmaker over post-Brexit arrangements.

‘Vote of confidence’

About 360,000 Minis are made each year, with more than 60% of them built at Oxford. But BMW has built up an alternative manufacturing base in the Netherlands amid concerns about Britain’s suitability as an export hub after Brexit.

UK Business Secretary Greg Clark hailed BMW’s announcement as a “vote of confidence” in government plans to make Britain “the go-to place in the world for the next generation of vehicles”. On Monday, he set out plans to invest in development of battery technology in the UK.

BMW said the move was part of a plan for electrified vehicles to account for between 15-25% of its sales by 2025.

The electric Mini will be based on the company’s 3-door hatchback model. However, BMW has yet to release pictures of a prototype vehicle.

BMW employs about 18,000 staff in the UK, including the Mini plant at Cowley, the Rolls-Royce factory in Sussex and at other sites in Birmingham and Swindon.

Analysis: Theo Leggett, business correspondent

BMW says the economic case for building the electric mini in Oxford is compelling, and it’s easy to see why.

This is not a brand new car, redesigned from the ground up. It’s a Mini, a 3-door hatchback, which will in many ways be identical to the cars already being built at the Cowley plant.

The electric bit – the drivetrain, which includes the motor, gearbox and battery pack – will be assembled in Germany, and fixed to the rest of the car in the factory.

So it makes sense to build the new model at the same factory as the majority of existing Mini production. There is no need for a new factory or production line, meaning the size of the investment will be relatively small by auto-industry standards – in “the tens of millions”, BMW says.

There is a potential spanner in the works – the new car is due to go into production in 2019, months after the UK leaves the EU.

With drivetrains being imported into the UK and many completed cars exported back to Europe, there’s a risk costs could rise sharply if tariffs are introduced on cross-channel trade.

But the company insists it can only make decisions based on the current economic realities. There has been no “special deal” done with the British government, it says – and nor has it asked for one.


Source: BBC