WORKERS, business leaders, politicians and union officials have welcomed the news BMW is to pump another £250m into production of the Mini.
The majority of the new cash, which follows £500m invested just a year ago, is earmarked for the Cowley assembly plant with the rest going to the engine making facility at Hams Hall, near Birmingham and the Swindon body plant.
Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron said: “I am delighted BMW has chosen to make such a significant investment in the UK.
“This demonstrates confidence in British manufacturing, provides a fantastic boost for the workforce, and shows we are making real progress in rebalancing the economy.”
Mini spokesman Graham Biggs said that while no new jobs would be created at the plant, the investment secured the future for the existing 3,700 permanent workers.
Chris Bond, Cowley plant convenor for the Unite union, said: “It is a fantastic day for the workforce. It is recognition at last for the workers’ dedication, hard work and flexibility. Those three things have won us this prize – which will lead to job security until at least 2020.”
He added: “We are over the moon. It shows BMW’s commitment to Oxford. And for a family man with a mortgage, this has got to be Christmas.
“There are no more jobs promised, but we are hopeful that this might lead to more all the same. We shall wait and see.”
The production capacity of the Mini plant is 250,000 cars a year with more than 200,000 produced last year.
Business Secretary Vince Cable announced the new cash yesterday on a visit to the plant.
The investment will be used for machinery rather than new buildings, although top bosses insist Oxford will remain the home of Mini.
As a result, some production of the new models will be contracted out to Nedcar in the Netherlands, just as production of the Countryman model is contracted out to Magna Steyr in Austria.
Mr Biggs added: “What we need is extra capacity that goes beyond what we can build in Oxford and the most sensible way of doing that is with contract manufacture that will give us flexibility of production.”
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “This is great news for Cowley and the whole of Oxfordshire as well as being a welcome boost for the British economy. It is recognition of the achievement of the whole workforce at Cowley and clearly demonstrates BMW’s continued commitment to manufacturing in the UK and regard for the quality produced at the Oxford Plant.”
A 62 year-old worker at the Cowley plant, who has worked there for 39 years, said: “I am hoping to retire soon but, thinking unselfishly, this has got to be good news for anyone working there in the future.
“It’s a different world than the one I entered. There were about 30,000 workers there in those days. But it is much better now.”
The plant will close as normal for its annual two week summer break in the last week of July and first week of August. There will also be no car production for the following two weeks to allow for new equipment to installed and staff to be trained.