Mini triangle makes sound business sense
New Mini production is underway after a £200 Million UK investment by BMW.
Around 450 new jobs have been created at the assembly plant in Oxford and the petrol engine plant at Hams Hall, Birmingham. In addition, Swindon body plant has been updated for the new hatchback in a development being called the Mini production triangle.
In a further move, three suppliers have created a further 750 jobs as part of their own £40 Million investment close to Oxford.
The introduction of the Mini Cooper MK2 five years after the car rolled out of Oxford plant was watched (Wednesday) by Dr Norbert Reithofer, making his first visit to the UK since taking over as BMW Group chairman, accompanied by UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, who later toured the plant.
Both men highlighted the success of the Mini since it was launched at the Paris motor show six years ago and where the latest model with revised engines, facelifted body and interior will be appearing at the end of September.
Dr Reithofer praised the Chancellor for helping to create the economic and business environment which had allowed Oxford plant to prosper and develop while Mr Brown said it showed that the UK was a very good place to invest and do business.
Mini production at Oxford will rise from around 200,000 to 240,000 cars over the next two years and over 75pc will be exported to 70 countries.
The introduction of the new Mini is a turning point because UK content will rise from 40pc to 60pc with the new 120 and 175hp 1.6 petrol engines from Hams Hall, instead of imported from Brazil, and the introduction of 15 modular assembly units from British based suppliers.
The current Mini hatchback will remain in production until the end of the year for worldwide markets but the first of the new generation Mini MK2 will be with customers early in October.
The current Mini Convertible will continue until a new version is released and the present 1.4 diesel engine will be replaced by a new unit in the first half of 2007 along with a Mini One derivative. Prices for the new Mini Cooper start at £11,595.
In his welcome speech to Mr Brown and guests at the commissioning tour, Dr Reithofer said the UK was the only country in the world which produced all BMW premium brands products – the Mini plant at Oxford, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Goodwood and the Hams Hall engine plant making power units for BMW models.
The UK is the biggest market for Mini, over 45,000 were sold in 2005, and it’s the second largest ownership of Rolls-Royce models but also took 117,000 BMW models, the third highest globally.
He praised the stability of the UK economy, skills of workers and their flexible approach to ensuring production matched demand with three shifts a day, every day. Since 2000, BMW has invested £1,000 Million in the UK and generated much more investment through suppliers and dealerships.
Responding, Mr Brown said it was a great day for the Mini, BMW, Oxford and Britain and added, “You are an example to Britain and the rest of the world how modern manufacturing can prosper and succeed in the global economy."
He concluded by saying that skills training and development as well as flexibility had been a key to the success of the Mini and he was determined to remove any barriers to flexibility which had been suggested by Europe.