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Gloucestershire Business News

EXCLUSIVE: Gloucester tech welcomes BMW decision on China move

The next electric MINI, due here in 2024, will not be made in China and is staying put in Oxford.

Today's news spells a boost for Gloucestershire's automotive OEM sector, with G-Tekt Europe Manufacturing Ltd (G-TEM) welcoming implications for its two plants in Brockworth.

In a move that caught auto industry analysts out, BMW has reversed a plan to shift more of its future MINI production to China and signalled that it will instead spend £600m upgrading its factory just up the road from Gloucestershire.

MINI's Cowley plant will see the comitment from the German parent maker as the end result of a reported session of intense 'engagement' by the UK government - helped by a £75m subsidy offer.

Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor, said the investment is "a huge vote of confidence in this country as a global leader in electric vehicles".

Cowley will begin production of the electric Mini Cooper and the new electric Mini Aceman crossover SUV, despite an announcement last year to move battery model production to China. Having invested heavily in the association of the Mini as an iconic British model, it is thought that BMW has considered the continuation of British origin for future models as an important element in the cars' retail offer.

The move also helps to dispel post-Brexit jitters in the UK auto industry, following closely on the £4bn commitment from Tata to build a gigafactory in Somerset. 

Britain's electric car production has taken a battering amid Pandemic staffing issues, post-Brexit tariffs and the global shortage of silicon chips.

And as part of the UK's automotive crown jewels, Toyota remains a questionable element with uncertainty persisting over whether the Japanese maker will remain at Burnaston, in Derbyshire, beyond 2025.

But Nissan has made a £1bn commitment with Chinese-owned battery company AESC to create an EV manufacturing hub in Sunderland.

In Gloucestershire, G-TEM, which makes bespoke body part elements for many global auto brands, has welcomed BMW's news.

Adam Wood, sales and commercial manager, said:: "It's positive news. We have 450 people working in the two plants here and as suppliers to production in Cowley, we very much value our relationship with BMW."

After recent challenges, he said the mood was optimistic in the sector: "Another key customer's plan to free up floor space was a big opportunity for us and we have won that by being nominated and becoming a key part of their transition to an electrified platform, while we are also busy making 50,000 parts a week for an electric car battery tray, the order going every week to a destination in Europe.

"Overall, the forecast is positive for business here that focuses on not just being locally connected and exceeding customer requirements but more importantly the key offer we have, as an automotive body structure component supplier is that we have a fully functioning in-house toolmaking facility for large dies, an experienced product development department and a low volume prototype manufacturing facility.

"These are core needs for a successful new model launch and ongoing production support."

Reaction to MINI's move in the automedia is positive. 

Ian Robertson, editor of Diesel&EcoCar magazine said: "A MINI doesn't feel like a MINI if it isn't built in Oxford and BMW Group realise the importance of heritage to the brand. 

"With Countryman production taken in house to Germany, to be made alongside the X1, which is leaving Graz in Austria, it just left the Oxford plant for its future to be decided. And with local production of parts more important than ever since Brexit, the move secures more than 4,000 jobs at the two plants of Oxford and Swindon, with many more suppliers in the UK benefitting." 

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