The first engines have started to roll off the line at BMW's new engine plant at Hams Hall, near Birmingham in central England. At present, approximately 20 engines per day are being produced at the brand new £400 million ($US590 million) production facility which presently employs 450 people. By the end of the year, daily production will rise to over 600 engines, requiring a workforce of 650 'associates'.

In the first year of production, Hams Hall will build approximately 60,000 engines and the factory will play a crucial role in BMW's international production network as the "centre of competence" for the production of all group four-cylinder petrol engines between 1.6 and 2.0 litres capacity. The engines will be exported to vehicle assembly plants in Germany (Munich, Regensburg and Dingolfing), South Africa (Rosslyn) and the USA (Spartanburg).

At full capacity, the Hams Hall plant, the most modern engine production facility in the world, will be capable of producing over 400,000 engines per year and will employ 1,500 people.

Within a week of job advertisements being placed in regional newspapers and broadcast on radio stations in the West Midlands at the end of last year, almost 9,000 people telephoned a freephone number to express their interest in working at Hams Hall.

As part of the selection process, applicants are currently being invited to special weekend "open days" before being formally interviewed. In view of the large number of applications, this process will take several months to complete.

Hams Hall's plant director, Colin Mitchell, is delighted at the extremely positive public response to the job opportunities being offered.

"We have been overwhelmed by the quantity of applications and extremely encouraged by the quality of the applicants. Employing the best people is an essential element of BMW's continuing success internationally and will be a crucial factor in enabling Hams Hall to match the world-class standards of excellence set by production plants in Germany and elsewhere in the world."

The new engine factory will be officially opened on 8 February at an event hosted by BMW board chairman Professor Joachim Milberg. Guest of honour will be Andrew Smith, the MP for Oxford (home to BMW's Mini assembly plant), who is also chief secretary to the UK Treasury.