BMW to move production of electric minis from Oxford to China

BMW to move production of electric minis from Oxford to China

According to a report in the British Times, BMW wants to move the entire production volume of all-electric vehicles of its small car subsidiary Mini from Oxford to China.


Until now, the British had hoped to become a centre for the production of e-cars. Currently, BMW produces just over 40,000 electric Minis a year at its plant on the outskirts of Oxford. Production of E-Minis in the UK is due to end next year.

It is another blow to the UK's claims to become a leading producer of electric cars after Honda already decided to leave the UK shortly after the Brexit decision in 2016. The Japanese car manufacturer ended production at its plant in Swindon and moved production back to Japan. 3000 jobs were lost in the process, as were the prospects for Swindon to produce electric cars.

BMW's decision now comes at a time when Britain's only planned large battery factory, Britishvolt, is threatened with bankruptcy if it does not receive a £200 million rescue package. Yet only a year ago, Boris Johnson, the then prime minister, promised at the COP-26 climate summit in Glasgow to use around one billion pounds to launch an electric car revolution on the island that would create hundreds of thousands of jobs. And his predecessor Theresa May already intended to make Britain a world leader in the production of e-cars.

In future, Mini will manufacture most of its electric cars as a joint venture between BMW and Great Wall Motor. Only the largest electric Mini, the Countryman, is to come off the production line in Leipzig in 2023. Great Wall Motor and the BMW Group already celebrated the groundbreaking of the new joint venture Spotlight Automotive Limited at the end of 2019. At the time, it was said that the plant would create around 3000 jobs and produce up to 160,000 vehicles a year - four times more than Oxford has produced to date.

"Oxford is not prepared for electric cars"
The Oxford plant, meanwhile, will continue to assemble three- and five-door Minis and convertibles with internal combustion technology for export to markets such as the US, Japan and the Middle East. However, BMW has already confirmed that production of Minis with internal combustion engines will cease in the 2030s. What happens after that for the historic Cowley plant near Oxford is still unclear.

However, Stefanie Wurst, the new head of the Mini brand, said that Oxford "will always be the home of Mini". She said the decision to produce the e-models in China was based solely on the fact that the Cowley plant would run inefficiently if electric cars and internal combustion engines had to be produced on the same line. "Oxford is not prepared for electric cars," Wurst said, according to the Times. It will have to be "renovated and invested in". The Mini boss did not say when: "There is no date".

The renovation, however, would be extensive, she said. If electric Minis were to be built in Britain again, they would be on an assembly line developed by Great Wall. This would require the removal of most of the existing Cowley lines as part of a major factory overhaul. This, however, could bring great synergy effects because e-cars from Great Wall brands such as Ora and Wey could then also be built in Oxford. Wurst acknowledged this conjecture with a "maybe". And Great Wall also confirmed that the possibility of producing its vehicles in Cowley was the subject of "internal discussions". So things don't look quite so bad for the traditional plant in Oxford.

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