The ‘traditional’ BMW Mini assembly plant in Cowley, near Oxford, is looking increasingly likely to win the contract to build the all-electric E version, a UK media report said.
Britain’s Daily Telegraph said the future of the factory, once the Pressed Steel body plant on the vast British Leyland Cowley complex, was “looking increasingly assured with parent BMW leaning towards building the first electric version of the iconic car there”.
A decision on where the Mini E would be built was due by the end of September but “sources close to the company” told the Telegraph the UK plant was “almost guaranteed to land the work” though they and the newspaper did not elaborate.
The facility, officially BMW’s Plant Oxford, builds most of the 360,000 Minis made each year though there is some contract manufacture at the former DAF/Volvo/Mitsubishi/NedCarplant in Born, Netherlands, which produces several versions including the Countryman and its plug-in hybrid version. Magna Steyr built the first generation Countryman and Paceman but no longer makes Minis.
Earlier this month, BMW said it would decide by the end of September where to assemble the electric Mini.
Sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson told Reuters the BMW management board, of which he is a member, was currently considering a number of factories and factors including Brexit.
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“One of the elements is what is the likelihood of a tax regime and if there’s a tax regime, how would it apply,” he said.
“If you made the motor in a German plant and you then assembled the car in a British plant, and you took the cars back to the German market, then the duty that you would pay would be reclaimed,” he said, in an example of the options companies are examining to plan for any duties or tariffs.
The UK car industry is concerned about the effect any loss of unrestricted access to the EU, its largest export market, could have on plants after Brexit and there have been suggestions Born or a new BMW plant in Regensburg, Germany – could secure Mini EV production.
A decision to produce the new car in the UK would be a huge vote of confidence in Britain’s automotive industry in the wake of the vote to leave the EU, with it set to be the largest investment since Nissan confirmed last autumn it would build two new models in Sunderland, the Telegraph said.
Trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has spearheaded a hard-hitting campaign calling for the government to agree a transition deal beyond the 2019 deadline set by Article 50 which would the sector to adjust to the new economic environment of Britain outside the EU.
The paper said Oxford’s position as the top choice was strengthened because it already has a production line capable of dealing with large volume and the Mini E would need only an electric drive train installed, rather than being a completely new design, so much of the equipment already in at Cowley could be used. This puts it ahead of Born and Regensburg, which would be more expensive to set up for increased production.
A BMW spokesman told the Daily Telegraph: “No final decision has been made yet on where the vehicle will be built.”