BMW is said to be looking at transferring more car production to the UK in light of booming demand for the X1 SUV, among other models – and it is considering taking over the Honda plant in Swindon, according to Autocar sources.
The Honda factory is currently scheduled to close in 2021 when production of the Civic ends, but sources understand BMW is in discussions to take on the site after that date. However, BMW has officially denied these claims. A short statement read: "BMW has absolutely no plans to buy the Honda plant in Swindon."
Yet despite the official line there are a number of reasons that BMW is said by Autocar sources to be looking closely at expanding its operation in the UK, including the highly integrated production system already in place here.
BMW builds Minis, which are based on the UKL1 transverse-engine platform, at Oxford, using engines from its Hams Hall plant near Birmingham and body panels from its pressing plant near Swindon.
Currently, BMW also contracts Mini production to the VDL Nedcar factory in the Netherlands. Last year, VDL said output rocketed from 169,000 cars in 2017 to more than 200,000, due to the launch of the new BMW X1, based on the same architecture as the Mini family.
X1 demand is very strong, accounting for more than 13% of all global BMW sales.
Autocar recently revealed some 1 Series production could be moved to the UK, a car BMW sold around 200,000 units of globally last year.
Another clue that BMW is preparing to re-allocate UKL production appears on the VDL company website, where it states it expects fewer orders from BMW next year and, perhaps, in the years beyond that. The company has reduced its flexible workforce by more than 1000 employees.
BMW has also obtained outline planning permission to extend its Swindon pressing facility.
BMW insiders remain tightlipped, admitting only that “some reorganisation” is being considered at Mini Oxford.
With BMW selling around 687,000 UKL1-based cars last year – made up of the 1 Series, 2 Series, Mini, X1 and X2 – basing much of this in one place would make huge financial sense, as well reducing the length of supply lines post-Brexit.
Autocar understands the Oxford plant is currently running flat out, hitting a daily production rate of 1100 cars.