BMW launches UK-produced Mini Electric despite Brexit concerns

9 July 2019, 13:53 | Updated: 9 July 2019, 16:33

BMW has driven ahead with plans to produce its first all-electric version of the MIni at its plant outside Oxford, despite threatening to pull out in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The German carmaker said it planned to begin manufacturing the model, for both domestic and global sale, at the Cowley site later this year.

The first versions will be available to buy in the spring - by which time the UK should have left the EU, if the current timetable is maintained.

BMW told Sky News in April it could move production of the Mini from Cowley in a no-deal scenario - with some engine manufacturing at Hams Hall in Birmingham possibly going to Austria.

At the Mini launch in Oxford the company's head of production, Oliver Zipse, told reporters that while BMW had prepared for any disruption, it remained unclear what a hard Brexit meant.

He did, however, confirm that engines for South African-built BMW X3 models were no longer being produced at Hams Hall because of Brexit.

This was put down to the potential for the vehicles losing their tax-free import status into Europe after the UK's departure.

The company, along with rivals, is concerned that its UK products will be subject to tariffs and be at the mercy of border supply delays in the event of no deal.

But Brexit has not been explicitly blamed for a series of cuts since.

Nissan has u-turned on a decision to build new X-trial models in Sunderland while Honda and Ford have announced plans to close major factories.

Each company has blamed shifts in the industry - including the drive for electric cars - at a time of falling global sales and insisted there was no Brexit link.

Jaguar Land Rover, which has also warned against no deal, provided a rare boost last Friday when it confirmed the new electric Jaguar XJ would be built at Castle Bromwich.

Mr Zipse said: "We are entering an era in which electric cars will become a normal choice for our customers.

"The Mini Electric will kick off our new model offensive for fully electric vehicles.

"By 2023, two years ahead of schedule, we will have 25 electrified models on the market. More than half of them will be fully electric."

BMW said there would be three versions of the three-door Mini Electric hatchback - with the standard model costing £24,400.

It would have a maximum range of 144 miles per charge and can accelerate from 0-62 mph in 7.3 seconds.

David George, director of Mini in the UK, said: "Now our customers can have everything they love about Mini, but with all the advantages of an electric car - lower environmental impact and running costs and they never have to visit a
petrol station again."