The importance of the German-owned MINI brand to UK plc has been underlined by Oxford factory chief Juergen Hedrich.
The Mini plant now produces more than 200,000 cars a year – 80% of which are exported and contribute more than GBP1bn to the UK’s gross domestic product.
Hedrich said: “In the past 10 years since we started production of the new Mini at Oxford we have exported 1.3m cars and we now account for 1% of the country’s manufacturing exports.”
Mini Oxford is now the UK’s second largest factory after Nissan’s Sunderland plant and, along with BMW ’s engine production facility at Hams Hall in the West Midlands and pressing plant in Swindon, directly employs 5,500 people.
Hedrich added: “A further 11,000 are employed in dealerships around the country and a 10,000 at the 40 UK suppliers that we use. Our factory is at the heart of the community in Oxford and we take part in community projects such as working with local schools on sustainability projects.”
The factory currently produces the Mini hatchback, convertible and Clubman models – the new Countryman SUV is being assembled by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria – but two models will join the assembly lines at Oxford from next year.
The Mini Coupe and Roadster have already been seen in concept form at last year’s Frankfurt motor show and chief designer Gert Hildebrand said the new cars will herald the return of the affordable, British, two-seat sports car.
There are no current plans for further expansion at Oxford. The plant already runs two 11-hour shifts from Monday to Friday and a further, shorter shift on Saturday.
Hedrich said production can be increased up to between 270,000 and 280,000 a year by adding a further shift and with additional Sunday working.
He added: “There is also the possibility to move production anywhere within the BMW group because we have so much flexibility. There are no plans to expand the site at Oxford.
“Adding the coupe and roadster will not cause any production problems because the assembly line is so flexible. Flexible enough to allow us to make any customer specification changes up to six days before the car leaves the plant.”