BMW May Build Eelctric MINI Outside the UK

According to the Automotive News, BMW is considering basing production of MINI’s upcoming electric car outside of the U.K. due to Brexit. Due to uncertainty around trade agreements between the U.K. and Europe, BMW believes building the car with Dutch contract manufacturer VDL Nedcar, the report said.

Currently the factory builds the F56, F57 and the new F60 so this news doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch.

  • Nick Dawson

    The key word here is “May” and, understandably, there is a lot of posturing going on in the EU over Brexit. The real issue for BMW is that Plant Oxford has an annual build capacity – limited by surrounding physical constraints – to 260k units.

    Last year, MINI sold an all-time record 360,233 cars, the additional build capacity provided by VDL NedCar in the Netherlands with an annual capacity limited to 190k units. So together with Plant Oxford, MINI has an annual build capacity of 450k.

    This is interesting because MINI expects annual worldwide sales to approach 400k with the launch of the F60 Countryman, which leaves an annual 50k spare capacity for the fifth ‘superhero’ model.

  • Michael Lehnert

    Well, understandably, there’s a lot of posturing going on in the UK over Brexit, because Brexit has been presented like that 1997 Tony Blair New Labour election advert: “It can only get better”. When I talk to English people, irrespective of their political ideology, they really don’t take kindly to recalling how that worked out for them… (and I exclude Scottish people here, because they got their own parliament and path to sovereignty and independence under Blair).

    Plant Oxford has a capacity ceiling of 260,000 units per year, alright, but those figures are always explicitly stated as “in the medium term” by Munich. It’s possible to raise the ceiling to 300k just through further internal efficiencies and automation. And to not considerably expanding the plant eastwards along Horspath Road is more a political (community) and economic (FX market) rather than an actual physical constraint.

    With the inevitable electrification of automotive transport, it’s really in the UK’s interest that the foundational expertise of manufacturing electric MINIs is trained up, and indeed the new production system to be situated in Oxford. The Netherlands are ramping up their efforts to become a leader in the manufacturing of electrics.

    So these musings, posturing or not, have actually a lot more credibility to turn into reality than not.

    • Nick Dawson

      I have no wish to argue politics with you except to say that I completely disagree with your analogy. With regard to a future annual production ceiling at Plant Oxford of 300k, that still leaves a shortfall of 150k.

      Depending upon the final trade negotiations between the EU and the UK, I see no reason why all future MINI production for EU countries could not be in the NedCar Plant, and in Plant Oxford for the rest of the world.

      It is, however, far to early to speculate and, in any event, several EU leaders may well not be in power twelve months from now, and by then will may well be having a very different discussion.

      • Michael Lehnert

        Huh?! What are you on about, Nick?

        BMW is a family-lead publicly traded multinational. Your false equivalence and politicization of BMW’s entirely logical strategic business planning for a post-Brexit reality with what you call “EU posturing” – thus naively alluding to BMW somehow being an extension of EU power politics – is what actually brought “politics” into this thread in the first place.

        As I said, BMW can invest into Plant Oxford to either raise its cap ceiling internally to 300k, or expand the plant physically, which could almost double its capacity if it wanted to. That would be a real show of commitment to the “post-Brexit” ‘Standort England’, as they say in Munich. But that’s not what is being discussed, for pretty obvious reasons.

        Why you would believe that Plant Oxford would produce “for the rest of the world” and VDL Nedcar would only be for the EU is beyond me. The EU has far more established trading agreements than any post-Brexit UK entity will legally have for some time. The Netherland’s Antwerp and Rotterdam with the Europoort area have global shipping facilities unmatched by anything even imagined as possible in the UK, e.g. Boris Johnson’s New Port of London plans that went exactly nowhere. Where do you think Oxford-assembled MINIs are shipped to for global distribution? Furthermore, Her Majesty’s Government has said that immigration concerns will overrule economic concerns. That indicates that “free trade” with almost no barriers and regulations yet also no freedom of movement as the UK wants to envisage it will be difficult to sell; as the negative ripostes in India, Australia and Turkey have already shown.

        “Punching above its weight…”… huh?! (again)… this sounds as if thousands of proud St George’s flags are flying over GKN’s admin HQ in Redditch. The UK is not anywhere near leading in electric platforms, let alone automotive digital platforms or integrated software development. GKN is just one of many Tier 1 component suppliers highly dependent on free supply chain trading, and in equal measure a global multinational with extensive R&D and manufacturing across the EU, Asia, India, NAFTA (Mexico), Brazil, and 52 other countries. I know Theodor Gassmann, and his engineering team on the eAxle are mostly Europeans based in the UK, and I can tell you those guys are pissed and worried that they have to go through the motion of residency permits for their spouses, worry about their non-British kids’ future in UK schools and unis etc. Engineering talent is globally mobile, and a competitive job offer in Regensburg, Graz, Born, or Bratislava is easy to churn out. Just think of Tencent luring Carsten Breitfeld’s entire ‘i’ team to the other side of the planet.

        As regards the comment about “several EU leaders may well not be in power twelve months from now”… again, what does that have to do with BMW, and what does it contribute to a thread about BMW’s electric manufacturing future? Germany’s VDA, BDI and DIHK have already stated that an erosion of the EU’s Single Market and the Four Freedoms would be worse for European businesses than sales fall-outs from Brexit. Their policy proposals and lobbying is accordingly, and not in “the Brexiteers” favour. And Downing Street gets the message and has already indicated to the non-UK automotive sector that concessions and compensations would be made through the Treasury. Coming from a conference of UK-based car manufacturers, I heard that what No 10 said was pretty consistent across the board to all corporations concerned. Finally: there won’t be a change in government in Germany, with the Grand Coalition around Merkel and now Schulz remaining firmly in power even if the AfD goes all superboost for, say, 20% of the vote. Marine Le Pen may win the French Presidential, but unlike the US system with President Trump, she will not be able to actually form a viable government because she has no Front National members in the Assemblé, Sénat or the Régions. It’s akin to Nigel Farage being directly-elected by a 50%+ majority of the UK’s electorate to become PM, but then be faced with a Commons and Lords with no UKIP MPs or Peers to draw from to create an actual government. Geert Wilders’ PVV may perform very well and get 35 seats out of 150 seats in the Dutch Parliament, but that would mean a three-parties coalition to be formed for him to gain government power. Besides, that would merely mean that he would be where he already was 7 years ago. And that went nowhere. When he last floated taking the Netherlands out of the EU, at the height of his power 5 years ago, he lost half his parliament seats at the next election, and was out of power.

        So it’s not gonna be so easy for BMW to be forced to climb out of the ruins of a devasted EU and ruined Eurozone, eat humble pie for even thinking about not giving the UK everything, and then happily invest billions of Great Global Pound Sterling into the UK because England will be the only remaing beacon of freedom, liberty and hope for global car-makers going electric.

        I think for the sake of reality, you need to get your comparatives straight to understand the scaling here. Have a nice week-end.

        • Nick Dawson

          Now that’s what you call a rant.

          You too have a nice week-end.

        • Michael Lehnert

          It’s not a rant at all, quite the contrary – unless you redefined the word and forgot to tell the rest of the world about it.

          Gabe was entirely right in writing that “…[this] news doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch…”, while you posting some dog-whistle politically-spun commentary on a non-political MINI enthusiasts site went as expected: full frontal car crash in slo-mo. Why, because your commentary simply doesn’t hold up when put under scrutiny or confronted with factual reality.

          In case you didn’t get the memo last week: time’s simply over for unchecked below-the-line BS posts on good websites that matter, like MF, you know… 😉

        • Nick Dawson

          Oxford English Dictionary definition of ‘rant’ –

          Speak or shout at length in an angry, impassioned way:

          Michael – I have a lot of respect for your technical expertise in this matter and, in any case, I respect your right to an opinion. Where you fall down is your inability to argue your case without becoming gratuitously rude and personal. My father always used to say that when a man becomes personal, he automatically forfeits his argument.

          For the record, I never accused BMW of posturing, and if you would care to re-read my comments you will see that I was clearly referring to the EU, who are undeniably posturing over Brexit. I abhor politics, and I was most certainly not trying to score any political points. I admit, however, that I was being mischievous in suggesting that there might be a change in the leaders of some EU member countries. Nonetheless, I defend my right to express my opinion on MF/BF, which I have been doing most enjoyably for the past seven years.

          I trust that I have not spoiled your week-end

        • Michael Lehnert

          Gee, again, what are you actually on about, Nick?!

          In no sentence have I attacked you personally, either directly or even indirectly, nor have I used rude our even foul language, or insulted you or your next of kin. I didn’t even reply to your first post! You replied to mine and started talking about politics. Just get off my back, will you 🙂

          I haven’t even addressed you personally, just the various points that you have put forward for discussion, all of which are quite simply missing to address a bigger and richer picture important to understand what’s going on right now. Given the large readership of this website, I felt it important that your points are precisely not left uncommented, because many readers, especially from outside Europe, don’t have either the technical or local political exposure to understand what this very important leak to Automotive News actually means, but which Gabe has rightly picked up on and put on the front page for a good reason.

          So either you are really not used of someone putting thoroughly and sharply argued counterpoints to your publicly expressed opinions. Or maybe you have gotten just too used to be regarded as authoritative enough that you can get away with what are in effect semi-informed half-knowledge throwaway remarks – and don’t cry snowflake now à la “I am personally offended by this remark of yours…” As my father used to say: “offence can only be taken, so give it back!”.

          So: I appreciate the gesture, but truly don’t need your “respect of my right to express an opinion”. I find amusement in the jolly patronising tone of your sentence, but we are not living in 19th century England. This is a global comment section on an internationally available website. Equally, no one is curbing your right to express your opinion. But you do not have a claimed right not to be called out if your opinion is based on false information, incorrect data, and ill-informed perceptions.

          Indeed you don’t accuse BMW of posturing. You said “there is a lot of posturing going on in the EU over Brexit. The real issue for BMW…”, putting changes to investment strategies at BMW into the realm of responsibility of the EU policymaking, while it actually is in the realm of the UK: the UK wants to leave the EU with its customs union and single market privileges. To claim the EU is posturing because – by extension – the UK is under the warped impression it can simply leave the world’s biggest trade bloc while at the same time remaining a full member with all rights and access but now costs of that said trade bloc, that by definition would warrant the sentence “posturing by the UK over Brexit”, because it’s the UK posturing about something that is simply unrealistic to expect to become a reality, in any shape or form. So I have fleshed out at entirely legitimate length why BMW is quite logical and business-savvy to leave capital investment into Plant Oxford for future tech out of current consideration. I think it makes perfect sense to invest in the Netherlands instead of Oxford for cost-intensive top-premium technology that cannot afford any insecurity about supply chain costs and timings. Meanwhile, you haven’t made one convincing counter argument to mine, but instead started talking like a random online Brexit supporter (which I don’t care if you are or not) highlighting how great Great Britain is, using examples that actually clearly show the deficits that exist in the UK in that sector. Bad luck examples, I guess.

          In reference to you being mischievous about the “change of governments in the EU” – I am unclear if you are based in the US or UK or elsewhere, but the type of contextual wording of your so-called “mischievous” sentence is – within the public discourse in Europe – a template online sentence for the PAWNists (patriarchal authoritarian white nationalists) used to invoke the rise of “the liberating nationalism bringing to an end the tyranny of the EUSSR and Germany’s Fourth Reich” andsoonandsoforth. So, in a US context, that would be like cracking a joke about abortion rights or the “Muslim travel ban” using lingo, and then claim it’s just a bit of harmless fun. See how far that would go now without at least 50% of US citizens being really not amused by your “harmless mischivousness”. Either you didn’t know that, in which case: fair enough, now you know; or you do and are now trying to get out of a sticky mess which you felt you could get away with by saying you are “apolitical”. Which may also be fair enough, but then, you should be more careful in your wording. Times have changed, and the value of words matter again.

          Anyway, I will leave you the last word, but shall see you in the future here in some other thread – I normally only feel compelled to comment once in half a year, because Gabe is doing such a great job as editor. Cheers, Nick!

        • Nick Dawson

          Oh no, not another rant Michael, what on earth is the matter with? For an obviously intelligent and well educated man, your outbursts are both disappointing and frankly an embarrassment. Under normal circumstances, I would enjoy countering your arguments, but in your present state of mind, it would be a pointless exercise.

          I am by nature, and upbringing, a compassionate man, but your constant snide remarks about England and the English are wearing a bit thin. The reality, and you know it, is that the “Great European Experiment” is a dead duck in the water. It’s not the fault of Brexit, but that the Euro is on the verge of collapse. Sorry old boy.

        • Nick Dawson

          Michael – in normal times, I would have enjoyed countering your arguments on many of the issues that you raised. I realise, however, that this must be a stressful time for you, and re-reading our recent exchanges, strong and impassioned feelings have been expressed on both sides.

          You will have gathered that I am passionate about all cars, especially BMWs and MINIs, and a huge supporter of the company and I wish them well. I am equally passionate about, and a strong supporter of Brexit, for what I believe are all the right reasons. I trust that you will not hold that against me.

          I hope that the next thing me we meet on MF, it will be more amicable – I am actually quite a decent chap to know 🙂 Best regards

  • Reuben Herries

    Placing a F56 from Nedcar next to an Oxford built MINI F56…. I was pleasantly surprised, that I was unable to find a difference at all. You simply cannot tell. Nedcar makes great cars and although not ‘British’ I am proud to be selling cars built there.

    • Nick Dawson

      We have a winter second home on Penang Island in Malaysia. I mention this because the R60 Countryman has been assembled locally for some years now, in BMW’s assembly plant in Kulim, in the north of Malaysia. As a long term owner of an R60, I too can detect no difference in quality between the R60 assembled locally and ours which was built by NedCar.

    • Nick Dawson

      I omitted to mention that the advantage of the R60 Countryman being assembled locally in Malaysia, is that it avoided punitive import duties levied on all cars imported to Malaysia, except for those built in the ASEAN region.

  • Nick Dawson

    BMW expects a breakthrough in battery technology in 2026, by which time it plans to have solid-state batteries ready for production in its models. The batteries will use lithium ion technology, but will swap liquid electrolytes for solid ones, with initial targets being a 15-20% increase in capacity.

    Other benefits include less weight and a reduction in the amount of safety protection needed due to the reduced fire risk. This also allows for the packaging and housing of the batteries to be revisited. The batteries are in development but are 10 years away from production.

    In the meantime, the next development in the refinement of BMW’s existing battery technology will arrive in 2018, in time for the launch of the MINI Cooper E and the all-electric version of the next generation BMW X3.