Production at Swindon’s BMW car plant, which makes body panels for the Mini, is to be increased significantly to supply a new factory in Holland, it was revealed this afternoon.
BMW confirmed yesterday that it is to build the latest Mini model – the Hatch – at the VDL Nedcar in Born, Holland, to meet rising production targets as global demand for the car flourishes.
The Swindon plant, which employs around 800 people, makes about 90% of the pressings and almost 80% of the sub-assemblies, such as doors, bonnets and tailgates, for the Minis assembled at its sister plant in Oxford, which is now reaching capacity. Last year Oxford produced nearly 176,000 Minis.
BMW confirmed this afternoon that Swindon will supply body panels and sub-assemblies to the new Dutch factory.
A spokesman said: “Swindon will supply VDR Nedcar in the same way it supplies Oxford.
“One of the reasons the new plant was chosen was because of its location which means it can be supplied from Swindon.”
Millions of pounds have been spent upgrading the Swindon plant over recent years – an investment that has transformed it into a world-class new body manufacturing site, say BMW. The new technologies make production far more flexible, allowing the plant to produce a greater number of panels for different variants of the Mini.
The Swindon plant forms one corner of BMW’s Mini production triangle with sister plants at Oxford (formerly known as Cowley) and Hams Hall near Birmingham.
Production for the Dutch plant is unlikely to result in a large number of new jobs at Swindon, although the plant continues to recruit in line with its previously-announced investments.
Production of the Mini Hatch in the Netherlands will start this summer.
BMW head of production Harald Krüger said: “The Mini brand is showing substantial growth. This is why we need additional, external production capacity on top of the capacity of the Mini plant in Oxford which stands at about 260,000 units per year in the medium term.
"VDL Nedcar has many years of experience in producing high-quality vehicles, so the company is an ideal partner for us. At the same time, the UK production network is and will remain the heart of Mini production. Splitting production of the new Mini Hatch between Oxford and Born will give us greater flexibility for other models.”
BMW made 303,177 Minis last year – some 175,986 at Oxford. These included the Mini Hatch, Convertible, Clubman, Clubvan, Roadster and Coupé models. An additional 125,559 Clubman and Paceman models were built by the contract manufacturer MSF in Graz, Austria, plus a further 1,632 units in other plants. The Swindon plant did not supply panels to these contract factories.
Since the relaunch of the brand in 2001, nearly 2.8 million Minis have been produced.
Industry analysts say BMW wants to produce 10 different versions of the Mini and has a sales target of 500,000 over trhe next few years.
The Born plant was opened by commercial vehicle maker DAF in 1967. It later became joint venture between Volvo and Mitsubishi under the name of NedCar and has produced the DaimlerChrysler Smart ForFour and Mitsubishi Colt. It is currently owned by Mitsubishi but has been closed for more than a year.
BMW's Swindon plant opened in 1955 as part of automotive pressings group Pressed Steel to supply panels to what was then the Morris car factory in Cowley. It has undergone a large number of name changes. It now boasts some of the global auto industry's most advanced production technology.