Newstalk
Newstalk

15.51 5 Mar 2019


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BMW has stepped up its warnings over a no-deal Brexit in the UK.

It has said that production of its Mini cars in Oxford may be at risk.

Peter Schwarzenbauer, the German car giant's board member responsible for Mini and Rolls Royce cars, said the firm would "need to consider" moving production from the UK as the company could not absorb the extra costs they would inevitably face.

He also told the Reuters news agency at the Geneva car show that some engine manufacturing, in Birmingham, could be lost to Austria.

Mr Schwarzenbauer expressed solidarity with other global carmakers over their response to the UK's looming departure from the EU.

Mini The production line at the BMW UK Mini plant in Oxford in 2009 | Image: Steve Parsons/PA Archive/PA Images

While Brexit has not been explicitly blamed by Nissan for its U-turn on building new X-trial models in Sunderland, or Honda for its decision to close its Swindon plant, the carmakers agree that Brexit will add to their costs and make them less competitive.

That is mainly because of the risk of disruption to supplies from bolstered border checks and the threat of extra tariffs.

Other pressures in the sector include the global economic slowdown and shift towards electric models from diesel and petrol.

Mr Schwarzenbauer confirmed that as Rolls Royce is a luxury British brand, it would have to remain rooted to the UK whatever happens on March 29th.

But speaking to Sky News, he could not give the same commitment to the Mini and its plant in Oxford.

The company employs 4,500 staff at its manufacturing facility on the outskirts of the city.

On the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, Mr Schwarzenbauer said: "This would really be a huge burden to the Mini brand.

"If this would come - the worst case scenario... we would need to consider what it exactly means for us on the long run.

"For Mini this is really a danger. No doubt about that."

BMW had already announced plans to temporarily suspend Mini production in Oxford for the first week of April, to allow for any immediate disruption after Brexit.

Mr Schwarzenbauer confirmed that was set in stone - even if Westminster was to vote to extend the Brexit process to allow for a deal with the EU to be completed.

Asked whether such an extension would helpful, he said: "We would need to close it anyway.

"For us... if there is a two to three-month delay we would not be very happy because we need certainty in our planning processes."

Main image: The BMW plant in Oxford in 2006, where Mini production takes place | Image: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive/PA Images


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