The Mini (except the Cooper SE) will be produced outside of Britain
It's happened. After years of rumours, BMW has confirmed that production of the Mini will be moved outside of outside of Europe for the first time ever in the brand's history. As part of a new venture with the Chinese manufacturer Great Wall (best known in the UK and Europe for the Steed pickup truck) called Spotlight Automotive Limited, Minis will be produced in a brand new facility in Zhangjiagang, China, alongside several of Great Wall's own vehicles.
The new facility is scheduled to open in 2022 and will have a capacity of up to 160,000 vehicles per year worked on by up to 3,000 employees. BMW are clearly seriously investing in this, as it's been reported that both BMW and Great Wall have put around 650 million euros (around $714 million) into the construction of this new factory. The main goal of this new factory is to help alleviate the enormous demand for electric vehicles in China - BMW are expecting to have launched 12 new electrified vehicles by 2023 and this new, ultra modern Chinese plant is going to be a huge aid in helping BMW to achieve that goal, especially within a market that is massively demanding zero emissions capable cars.
Dr. Nicholas Peter, a member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, has stated with this news that the new factory and joint venture with Great Wall is "an important strategic step for the Mini brand" and "underlines the enormous importance of the Chinese market for us." He would certainly be correct in saying that. The Chinese market is one of the biggest markets for almost any product, let alone cars, and with the ever-increasing rise of car ownership in China every major manufacturer and brand needs to get their foot squarely in the door. There's potentially a huge market for Mini in China and for BMW to fully tap into that, they need to exploit it now.
This news that Mini production is moving to China seems very sad for the British automotive industry. Cowley has been the spiritual home of Mini for longer than a good section of Mini's customers have been alive, even though Minis were produced at Longbridge from 1968 until the classic model's demise in 2000. A lot of Mini enthusiasts will no doubt mourn the departure of aspects of Mini from its UK home. Although, according to BMW, the Cowley plant is still safe. The all electric Mini Cooper SE will still be produced there and they're insistent that Cowley will remain the "heart and home of Mini manufacturing". Those are some very strong words and a lot of us Brits and Mini enthusiasts alike will be holding BMW to that.
Build your own Mini
Although production of the real Mini is moving, you can build your own right at home. The Lego Mini Speed Champions set includes a 1967 original Mini, and a 2018 Mini JCW buggy – and it's on offer right now for less than £30. Treat yourself!