On Monday, BMW revealed strategic plans to fully convert its Mini factory at Oxford, England, into an exclusive production hub for electric vehicles (EVs). This progressive shift aims to safeguard thousands of existing jobs in the historic site, well-known for its centenary car manufacturing legacy.
Determined to launch this major transition, BMW is set to commit a massive 600 million pounds ($751 million), enabling the introduction of two brand-new all-electic models by 2026, before completely shifting to electric vehicle production four years thereafter.
The company’s commitment follows the U.K. government’s approval of a substantial, albeit unspecified amount of taxpayer funds towards the project. This move is seen by many as a reassuring vote of confidence in the U.K.’s currently beleaguered car manufacturing sector, wrestling both with the industry’s rapid transition to electric vehicles and the repercussions of Brexit.
This decision by BMW will also ensure the iconic Mini continues its production run in the very country of its origin. BMW’s lofty ambition targets the Mini brand to be entirely electric by 2030.
Milan Nedeljkovic, a board member in charge of production at BMW Group, underscores the importance of the development. “Today, we’re unveiling plans for the next generation of fully electric Minis to be manufactured right here in Oxford, charting a clear road map for the facility’s future,” he said.
When questioned about rumours that the government might invest 75 million pounds ($94 million) into the initiative, U.K. Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch refrained from comment. She argued this information would hamper negotiations with other firms as the government seeks to entice further investments into EV production.
The U.K. government has decreed a 2035 deadline for all cars and vans sold within the country to be zero-emission. According to Badenoch, manufacturers transitioning to net zero incur additional costs that make operations challenging. So the provision of some light subsidies, despite the difficulties faced by the automotive industry, have to be factored in.
A significant obstacle to the U.K.’s car industry is the establishment of factories to produce necessary batteries to power next-gen electric vehicles. British car manufacturing fell by 40% from 2019 to 2022, attributed to Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, post-pandemic computer chip scarcity, and the shift to EVs.
Nevertheless, the Mini project brings fresh optimism to the U.K. auto industry, following announcements of vehicle makers’ plans to infuse over 6 billion pounds ($7.5 billion) into British investments over the past two years.
BMW plans to produce electric versions of the Mini Cooper three-door and the compact crossover Mini Aceman at the Oxford plant. This commitment guarantees the U.K. maintaining its status as a vital manufacturing hub for the Mini, following earlier project announcements in China and Germany.
The history of Mini manufacturing in Oxford dates back to 1959 under the aegis of British Motor Corp., with the small, two-door car rapidly becoming a symbol of 1960s “Cool Britannia”. It became globally known after its feature in the 1969 heist movie, “The Italian Job” and its 2003 remake.
The brand came under BMW ownership in 1994, when Rover Group, the successor to British Motor was bought over. According to Stefanie Wurst, the head of the Mini brand, “Mini has a keen sense of its history – Oxford is, and will always be, the brand’s beating heart.”