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Why BMW is moving electric Mini production from the UK to China

BMW is going to cease all production of electric Minis in the UK and build them in China and Germany instead.

Electric Minis in China

BMW’s current production of 40,000 electric Minis annually at its Cowley, Oxfordshire, factory will end next year as part of its plans to reshape Mini’s lineup from 2024.

The first electric Mini was built in Oxfordshire in July 2019. Greg Clark, secretary of state for business, energy, and industrial strategy, then said:

I am delighted this modern British icon will be manufactured in Oxford.

Oh, well.

BMW is part of a joint venture with Chinese automaker Great Wall Motor, so the hatchback and small SUV electric Minis will be built in Baoding, China, going forward. The electric Mini Aceman, which is expected to debut in 2024, will also be made in China.

BMW will move the manufacturing of the electric Countryman to its factory in Leipzig, Germany.

The UK plant will continue to make three-door, five-door, and convertible gas Mini Coopers for export to overseas markets such as the US and Japan. A BMW spokesperson said there would be no impact on jobs at the Cowley plant. BMW has said it will not stop production of gas Minis until the 2030s.

Stefanie Wurst, the new head of Mini, told the Times that BMW is moving electric production to China because “the Cowley plant was running inefficiently by having to produce electric and petrol cars on the same line”:

“Oxford is not geared up for electric vehicles,” she said. “It will need renovation and investment.” Asked when electric Minis will return to Oxford, she said: “There is no date.”

Asked whether Oxford could at some unspecified time in the future build both Minis and Great Wall brands such as Ora and Wey, she replied: “Maybe.”

A spokesman for Great Wall confirmed that the possibility of producing its own vehicles at Cowley had been the subject of “internal discussion.”

The BMW announcement comes as Britishvolt, a lithium-ion battery startup, is holding emergency fundraising talks with carmakers and other potential investors because it needs to raise around £200 million ($228 million) to continue to fund the main construction phase of its plant in Northumberland, or it’s at risk of running out of money before Christmas.

Electrek’s Take

Almost exactly a year ago, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to fund a “£1 billion electric car revolution” in the UK at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. That plan is nowhere near at the top of possibly-soon-sacked Prime Minister Liz Truss’ agenda.

Between BMW’s China/Germany announcement and the Conservative government being in serious turmoil on a literally hour-by-hour basis, it looks like the UK isn’t going to lead an EV revolution anytime soon, and that’s a huge disappointment. And Britishvolt needs to survive in order to have a fighting chance.

I’ve driven two Mini Coopers made in Cowley and would have liked to have owned an electric Mini made in Cowley, too, had I still lived in the UK. Mini is an iconic British brand, and it’s disappointing that the Oxfordshire plant has been cut out of the electrification process. I’m a big fan of local manufacturing, no matter where I live.

Will Great Wall manage to make more than 40,000 electric Minis annually? Will they be shipping them from China to Europe and the US, thus creating a lot of shipping emissions in the process? Will there be more electric Minis on the market if BMW ramps up production quickly in China? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Read more: MINI introduces Aceman concept – its first all-electric crossover previewing new brand design language

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.