BMW is currently assessing where to base production for the upcoming electric Mini which is due to launch in 2019. Sites under consideration include existing plants in Germany (Leipzig and Regensburg), the Netherlands (at Born, which produces the Mini Countryman and convertible Mini via contract assembler Nedcar) and the UK (Oxford), Handelsblatt reports, citing company sources.
This would be a blow to Britain’s ambitions to become a world-leading base for battery development and electric cars.
A spokeswoman for BMW said: ‘We always consider a wide range of factors to make sure we choose the most appropriate location in each case. […] The Brexit vote creates uncertainty for the automotive sector and uncertainty is not helpful when it comes to making long-term business decisions.’
UK business secretary Greg Clark fully supports electric car research as part of the UK government’s industrial strategy. Nissan already builds the world’s cumulative best-selling electric vehicle (EV), the Nissan Leaf, at the UK’s largest plant in Sunderland and Britain’s biggest car manufacturer, Jaguar Land Rover, has ambitions to manufacture EVs in the UK. Clark also met PSA executives earlier this month to promote the idea of making Opel and Vauxhall EVs in the UK.
UK production hit a record high of 1.7 million units in 2016 and the British government is keen to build on this success and ensure the continuing revival of the country’s car industry. However, its plants are particularly vulnerable to post-Brexit tariffs, as they are highly dependent on the EU for both sales and components. Clark has already given assurances to Nissan, PSA and other carmakers regarding the UK government’s commitment to improve British competitiveness post-Brexit.
Clark told the UK parliament last year that there were four main assurances that form the government’s assurances to carmakers. These include: ensuring more suppliers are located in the UK, a commitment to growing Britain as a base for research and development in electric and low emission vehicles, support for jobs and training, and pushing the EU for a deal that enables the automotive industry to continue trade ‘free and unencumbered’.
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