BMW is to produce the new MINI Hatch in the Netherlands – but it insists this does not threaten the future of MINI Plant Oxford.
Rather, the new contract manufacturing deal, in association with VDL NedCar, offers MORE opportunity to Oxford for production of additional variants.
Currently, Plant Oxford is the only facility that builds the MINI Hatch (and the associated MINI Clubman, Convertible, Roadster and Coupe). But the latest third-generation model switches to BMW’s flexible new UKL platform: this standardisation presumably makes it easier to build it in multiple locations.
NedCar isn’t the first non-UK facility to build MINIs. Magna Steyer currently builds the MINI Countryman and Paceman in Austria. What the Netherlands deal means for these cars is now unclear: the next-generation Countryman and Paceman are expected to switch over to an enlarged version of the UKL platform, which can support cars up to 4.5 metres in length.
Is BMW’s longer-term plan to bring these models in house, just as it did with the second generation X3, after Magna assembled the first generation model?
Speaking as the production deal was announced, BMW said the dual hatchback production site strategy is not being done simply to raise overall volumes. “Contract production is a vital flexibility tool for us,” said BMW board member for purchasing and supplier network Dr. Klaus Draeger.
“Splitting production of the new MINI Hatch between Oxford and Born will give our global production network additional leeway.”
The need to build more MINIs is clear though, as part of BMW Group’s desire to build more than two million vehicles annually by 2016. MINI Plant Oxford has a production capacity of 260,000, which can’t easily be extended even in the medium term. NedCar (and its 1500 staff) will add useful tens of thousands – starting this year, even though production doesn’t start until the summer.
Last year, Plant Oxford built 175,986 MINI Hatch, Convertible, Clubman, Clubvan, Roadster and Coupe. MSF Graz made a further 125,559 Clubman and Paceman (a surprisingly high number); total production was 303,177. This year should beat that…
Keen BL watchers will, of course, note this isn’t the first time Minis have been produced in the region; for years, BL ran a plant just across the Dutch border at Seneffe, Belgium.