John Reed and Richard Milne, Financial Times, 3rd September, 2009
BMW plans to build two new MINI models at its plant near Oxford, in a vote of confidence for UK manufacturing and a significant boost for the hard-pressed motor industry. Norbert Reithofer, BMW’s Chief Executive, said in an interview with the Financial Times that the move would entail new jobs and investment at the facility, which is operating close to its capacity of 200,000 to 220,000 cars a year.
The German carmaker will unveil “concept” or pre-production versions of a MINI Coupé and a second, as yet undisclosed, car at the Frankfurt Motor Show this month as it expands its British premium small-car brand. “I am pleased to announce the MINI Coupé concept car and another new MINI model will both be built at Oxford,” Mr Reithofer said. The Cowley, Oxford, plant employs about 3,500 people and is one of Britain’s largest car factories.
The plans by General Motors to sell control of its European Opel/Vauxhall arm to the Canadian motor supplier Magna International or industrial group RHJ have raised fears for the future of its two UK plants. The Luton plant, which makes commercial vehicles with France’s Renault, is seen by analysts as vulnerable to closure. In February, BMW axed 850 temporary workers at its plant, provoking anger from unions, which claimed they were sacked without notice.
In February, BMW axed 850 temporary workers at its plant, provoking anger from unions, which claimed they were sacked without notice… Since then MINI sales have rebounded thanks to surging global demand for smaller cars and BMW has rehired most of the temporary workers.”
BMW was embarrassed by footage showing workers shouting at a colleague informing them of the cuts. The Tories claimed that the Government’s initiatives to support business were failing. Since then MINI sales have rebounded thanks to surging global demand for smaller cars and BMW has rehired most of the temporary workers.
Mr Reithofer would not comment on potential job increases in the UK or a production timetable for the new MINIs. Concept cars typically enter production after three years’ development. MINI plans to build the brand’s first small sport-utility vehicle in Austria from next year at Magna Steyr, a contract carmaker owned by Magna. Analysts speculate that Mini might begin producing cars in the US, its largest market.
The two new models planned for Cowley would probably create additional production volumes large enough to require a second assembly line, entailing the creation of thousands of new jobs, said one analyst. “It isn’t a small number of people needed to staff an assembly line,” said Eric Wallbank, of Ernst & Young. “You’re talking four-digit numbers, potentially.”
[Source: Financial Times]
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