Brexit uncertainty has BMWs Mini worried enough to bring forward next years summer shutdown so it can deal with supply chain issues when production is not in swing

Brexit uncertainty has BMW's Mini worried enough to bring forward next year's summer shutdown so it can deal with supply chain issues when production is not in swing

News Tata Motors' Jaguar Land Rover would be putting its Jag plant on a three-day week from next month was the most-read article on just-auto this week. This came around about the time of opening of the new Land Rover Discovery plant in Slovakia. The automaker said it was making "temporary adjustments to its production schedules" for Jaguar "in light of the continuing headwinds impacting the car industry" and workers would retain current pay and benefit levels. Birmingham Erdington MP Jack Dromey reportedly blamed the cut on a combination of "Brexit chaos" and government ministers' mishandling of the transition from diesel cars. The latter is unfortunate as JLR has invested heavily in a new engine plant and a new line of I4 Ingenium engines in both petrol and diesel forms. All are fully compliant with the latest tough emissions regulations with the diesels using complex SCR/urea injection to meet the latest Euro 6 rules. The Jaguar range sold in UK is currently focused on diesel variants but I guess that will change.

JLR appears to have its Brexit bets nicely hedged - the uncertainty surrounding just what trade deals the UK will have when it leaves the EU next March is ludicrous given the longer planning periods autos and other industries work on - with the new plant in Slovakia and Magna Steyr building the new i-Pace SUV EV under contract in Graz, Austria supplementing the British plants and the odd bit of KD pack assembly elsewhere. Magna often undertakes assembly of specialist models for automakers. The BBC quoted JLR saying in a statement it was standard business practice to "regularly review its production schedules to ensure market demand is balanced globally".

There was initially some media hysteria about BMW's Mini 'closing' its Oxford plant for a month around the planned Brexit time. Not a few journalists, it appears, subsequently learned about the (usually) summer shutdowns when essential heavy maintenance is carried out and tooling for new models installed. It transpired BMW, understandably given the Brexit uncertainty, has brought forward next year's production break to give it time to adjust to any supply chain issues that arise should Britain shift to WTO terms. Not all auto parts come from the EU so the company has experience there but finely balanced just-in-time and just-in-sequence systems may need a bit of extra stretch built in should there be border checks. Sound thinking and planning, I should think.

Meanwhile, in the US, another round of Trump tariffs was fired at China and the stock market reacted. Dave Leggett (an economist by trade who really understands these things) took a look and also reported on how Volvo was still trying to get an exemption for its Chinese-made XC60. I can imagine The Donald responding 'build it in America' and Volvo did start doing just that in South Carolina this week as production S60 sedans began to roll, we were told, though the supplied images were devoid of the usual crowd of people celebrating Job One. No mention yet of XC60 output there but the next generation XC90 is promised from 2021. It's the first time Volvo cars have been built in North America since Canadian assembly of KD kits ended years ago.

Volvo was also in the news at home in Sweden after being, finally, allowed to test self-driving vehicles in the Gothenburg area. Official documents reportedly showed self driving cars would be allowed on motorways and streets around Gothenburg but terms and conditions apply: the cars were not to exceed 60km/h in self-driving mode and drivers were to keep at least one hand on the wheel at all times. Operators must also undergo Volvo training.

VW has been hyping electrification for a long time and this week put some meat on the bones by launching its modular electric drive matrix (MEB), saying the newly developed technology platform would be the key to the "electric car for all" with 10m electric vehicle sales targeted. It plans to sell some 150,000 electric cars, including 100,000 ID models made in Germany, by 2020. As part of the 'electric for all' campaign, VW said it would be putting attractive models at affordable prices on the road, 'paving the way for the breakthrough of electric vehicles'. Production of the Volkswagen ID, the first series vehicle based on the MEB, will begin in Zwickau at the end of 2019.

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor,

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