MUNICH -- BMW will start production of an electric Mini model in the UK later this year even as automakers grapple with the implications of the latest twist to Britain’s exit from the European Union.
The automaker has no plans for radical changes to its four UK plants and expects any disruption to just-in-time supply chains to normalize within four to six weeks even after an unnegotiated Brexit, production chief Oliver Zipse said Wednesday.
BMW anticipates tariffs of zero to 5 percent after no-deal split, a development that “won’t change Mini’s business model” or the future of other UK plants, Zipse told reporters. “For us to consider fundamentally changing our production sites in the UK, there’d have to be significantly more severe developments.”
BMW’s plans contrast with a retreat from the UK at other automakers, with Nissan abandoning a plan to make the X-Trail SUV at Britain’s biggest plant and Honda saying it will cease manufacturing altogether in the country in 2021.
BMW Chief Executive Officer Harald Krueger said the company could still move production to other countries, such as the Netherlands, should problems emerge.
The comments came as Prime Minister Theresa May said she’d asked the EU for an extension to the Brexit deadline until June 30, a move that increases the chances of the UK crashing out of the bloc after that date, though lawmakers have already voted against such a move.
A delay would create a headache for automakers that have already elected to bring forward annual production stops to the weeks immediately after the existing March 29 Brexit deadline to minimize any disruption to component shipments crossing the UK border. BMW is sticking with its rescheduled halt at Mini’s Oxford plant for April and has “some flexibility” on measures to deal with a later Brexit, Krueger said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.
Aside from Minis, BMW makes Rolls-Royce cars in Goodwood, England. The automaker also has a pressing plant in Swindon that makes Mini body panels and an engine factory in Hams Hall. The UK is a large market for Mini, Zipse said, which would help mitigate future tariffs.
Toyota meanwhile provided a boost for the UK industry with an announcement that its plant near Derby will built a hybrid-electric vehicle for Suzuki on the same platform as its Corolla wagon, using engines from its Deeside factory in Wales from the end of next year.
The agreement does not involve new investment or extra jobs but will increase production volumes and help safeguard existing posts.