BIRMINGHAM, England - BMW has switched the main logistics contract at Rover's plant here from TNT to German-owned rival Rudolph & Hellmann.
The contract will run for a minimum of five years and is worth at least 25 million (DM80.2 million), said a spokesman for Rudolph & Hellmann.
Rudolph & Hellmann is a joint venture between Hellmann Worldwide Logistics GmbH and Rudolph Logistik Gruppe.
Although BMW has been steadily increasing the German influence at Rover, the logistics contract appears to have been awarded on price.
Rudolph & Hellmann offered Rover a fixed unit cost structure with in-built performance guarantees.
'We were not disgruntled with TNT,' said a Rover spokesman. 'TNT has a proven track record. It was a straight competitive quote won for the usual reasons.'
'Basically we lost on price,' said a TNT spokesman. 'They were looking for a 25-30 percent cost reduction. It is disappointing to lose any contract but that is legitimate business.
'Rover/BMW have replaced many of the Rover middle managers with Germans in the past 12 months,' he said. 'They are tending to use more German suppliers and smaller companies.'
TNT had been operating the distribution center at the side of the Birmingham plant next to the railhead. It also ran a daily collection service for suppliers.
The plant, formerly called Longbridge, has now been renamed Rover Birmingham.
The distribution center has been transferred to Rudolph & Hellmann as part of the contract switch. The 200 employees have been taken on by Rudolph and Hellmann with no redundancies, according to the company.
The Birmingham distribution center handles 70 percent of the parts that go into Rover's plant. At present the distribution center is responsible solely for sequencing, although BMW is looking at some late configuration of components within the operation in future.
The distribution center's tasks will include supplying the new Mini assembly line that will start up later this year.
BMW has just completed a 114 million investment in the new body-in-white hall for the Mini. It is investing another 400 million in the assembly factory for the car.
Other models assembled in Birmingham are the Rover 25, 45 and MGF.
Future models are expected to bring further big changes in logistics operations. But the opportunities for new on-site supplier operations at Birmingham are limited by the location of the plant in the urban Longbridge area.
Rover opened a new distribution center alongside its plant in Oxford, England last year. That operation is managed by Exel Logistics. Rover builds the 75 at Oxford.
Rudolph Logistik Gruppe also provides logistics services in mainland Europe to BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. It employs 1,200 in Germany and Hungary.
Hellmann Logistics GmbH is headquartered in Osnabruck, Germany. It employs 5,850 worldwide, including 600 in the UK. The Rover contract is its first big automotive logistics contract.
Hellmann Human Resources Manager Laurence Thomas said: 'This is a very exciting development for the company.'
Both Rudolph and Hellmann are family-owned.