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BMW to build electric Mini in UK
July 25, 2017 Peter Campbell
BMW will build the fully electric version of the Mini in the UK, despite previously warning it would make the car overseas because of the uncertainty created by Britain’s departure from the EU.
The electric motors and batteries for the car will be made at BMW plants in Germany and shipped to the UK.
The decision comes after months of lobbying from the UK government. BMW has previously warned that it was considering making the electric Mini on the continent because uncertainty from Brexit was “not helpful when it comes to making long-term business decisions”.
In the run-up to the referendum, it was one of the most vocal critics of leaving the EU, saying it could affect the company’s “employment base” in the UK.
The decision will require minimal changes to the UK assembly line at Cowley in Oxfordshire, because the exterior of the vehicle will be very similar to the current 3-door version of the Mini made at the site. Production is scheduled to start in 2019.
BMW has owned the brand since 1994, and makes all but two models in Oxford. It expects the UK, which accounts for a fifth of global Mini sales, to be a large market for the electric car.
The other two models are manufactured in the Netherlands, which already produces a hybrid version of the Mini and was another strong contender to make the fully electric model.
BMW currently makes electric motors and battery packs for all of its electric cars at two sites in Germany, Dingolfing and Landshut.
Greg Clark, the business secretary, has been trying to convince carmakers to manufacture electric vehicles in the UK, holding discussions with Peugeot about the company’s Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port, as well as with BMW.
He travelled to Munich twice as part of the negotiations that led to BMW’s investment decision, according to two people familiar with the meetings.
Letters setting out assurances that the UK government will do all it can to ensure that carmakers’ British facilities remain competitive after Brexit have been sent to both Nissan and Toyota before their recent investment decisions.
But the UK government has sent no letter of assurances to BMW about its trading conditions after Brexit, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions.
The German carmaker wrote to its workers in the run-up to the referendum, warning that a vote to leave could affect its trading conditions.
“More than half of Minis built and virtually all the engines and components made in the UK are exported to the EU, with over 150,000 new cars and many hundreds of thousands of parts imported from Europe each year,” the letter said.
“Tariff barriers would mean higher costs and higher prices and we cannot assume that the UK would be granted free trade with Europe from outside the EU.”
[© 2017 Financial Times]
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