BMW is to cease making its Mini Countryman in the Netherlands from 2024, leaving the German carmaker’s UK site as a leading contender to expand its production of the bestselling vehicle in the aftermath of Brexit.
The Munich-based manufacturer confirmed on Thursday that it would not renew a contract with Dutch contractor VDL Nedcar to build the next-generation of the model, which is assembled in Born.
Building more models in Oxford, where BMW’s Mini factory is based, would be a boon for the UK’s beleaguered car industry, which has suffered from draining investment since the vote to leave the EU in 2016.
While some carmakers have opted to build new models in British plants, several projects are on hold until trading conditions with Europe after Brexit are clear.
PSA has said it will shift production of the Vauxhall and Opel Astra models from Ellesmere Port to Europe if there are unsatisfactory trading conditions, while Nissan has delayed the production of its new Qashqai vehicle at Sunderland until the middle of next year.
The Japanese carmaker also said that tariffs and border checks under a no-deal Brexit would “jeopardise” its European business, which relies on Sunderland as an export base.
BMW said it was “responding to the current coronavirus pandemic with forward planning and a review of all projects”, adding that “development in the markets and customer demand are decisive factors in this evaluation”.
This year, BMW announced it would “slightly” reduce its global workforce in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. Up to 6,000 jobs at the manufacturer are set to be axed over the next couple of years.
About a fifth of Mini models are made outside the UK, spread across the Dutch plant and a site in China.
Last year, the Born plant produced more than 175,000 cars, including the Mini Convertible, Mini Countryman and BMW X1.
While Oxford has capacity for the convertible model made in Born, the facility would struggle to accommodate the Countryman as well if both models went to the UK, according to industry analyst Ian Henry.
The BMW X1 is also produced at Regensburg in Germany, though the site would struggle to take additional Mini volumes in addition to the remaining X1 models, he added.
BMW’s sales fell by more than 12 per cent in the first nine months of the year, as Covid-19 led to lockdowns in several key markets.
The premium carmaker is also grappling with a costly shift to electric cars, and plans to have delivered more than 7m electrified vehicles by the end of the decade.
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