BMW is set to invest up to £600m in its Mini plant near Oxford to prepare it for producing more electric vehicles. The firm is expected to announce the investment soon, which will secure the plant's future and its 4,500 workers. The move comes as BMW aims to increase its share of electric vehicles in its global sales.
The Mini plant at Cowley, on the outskirts of Oxford, has been producing Minis since 2001. The plant launched its first electric Mini in 2019, based on an existing design converted to run with an electric motor and batteries. The Mini electric cars has been a success, selling more than 40,000 units per year.
However, last year, BMW announced that it would move the production of most of its electric Minis to China, where it has a joint venture with Great Wall Motor. The firm said that building both conventionally fuelled and electric cars in the same factory could have been more efficient and that it wanted to tap into the growing Chinese market. Only one electric model, the Countryman, would remain in Europe, to be built at Leipzig, in Germany.
The decision raised concerns about the long-term future of the Oxford plant, especially as the UK government has banned the sale of new non-hybrid petrol and diesel-powered cars by 2030. BMW has also pledged to make all Minis electric by 2030.
However, BMW has now decided to invest in the Oxford plant to prepare it for building more electric models. The firm has not revealed which models will be built at the plant, but they will likely include some of the new generation of electric Minis that are being developed. These models will have a dedicated electric platform and a more distinctive design.
BMW said it had a "continuous and productive dialogue with UK Government" and received £75m of public support for its investment. The firm also said that Oxford would remain "the home of the Mini" and that no jobs would be lost.
The investment is a positive sign for the British car industry, which is struggling with the impact of Brexit, the pandemic and the global chip shortage. In 2022, UK car production fell to its lowest level since 1956. Several carmakers have closed or reduced their operations in the UK, while others have shifted their focus to electric vehicles.
BMW's investment in Oxford follows other recent announcements by Ford, Stellantis and Nissan to boost their electric vehicle production in the UK. Ford is investing £380m in its Halewood plant to build motors for electric vehicles. Stellantis is preparing its Ellesmere Port factory to build electric vans. Nissan is building a battery gigafactory next to its Sunderland plant, where it makes the Leaf electric cars.
BMW's investment in Oxford shows that the firm is committed to its UK operations and sees potential for growth in the electric vehicle market. The firm hopes that producing more Mini electric cars at Oxford will meet customers' demand for a stylish and sustainable car with British heritage. @via BBC.