BMW has insisted it is ‘business as usual’ and is going ahead with an annual recruitment drive, despite widespread redundancies elsewhere in the car industry.

The maker of the Mini in Cowley, has announced plans to employ more than 40 new apprentices, half of whom will be based in Oxford.

Despite previously expressing uncertainty over the impact of Brexit on its operations, the move appears to represent a continuing commitment by the firm in investing in future talent.

The apprentices will start this summer as final preparations are made for the introduction of the first fully electric Mini which will debut later this year.

Simon Farrall, head of apprentice and associate training for BMW Group UK, said: “An apprenticeship is a great way to start a career in the automotive industry during a new and exciting era of electro-mobility.

"We see apprentices as the future leaders of our business and many of our most experienced people started out this way.

"If you have a passion to solve problems, like working in a team and can rise to a challenge, then we want to hear from you.”

Sales figures announced earlier this week showed that the Mini has continued to buck the trend of steep declines in UK sales seen in the rest of the industry.

Some 67,000 vehicles were sold last year, a two per cent drop compared to the year before.

On Thursday rival Jaguar Land Rover cut 4,500 jobs, with the majority coming from back office roles across its UK bases.

This move was partly blamed on Brexit uncertainty while the firm's reliance on diesel vehicles is also taking its toll.

BMW bosses have previously spoken out over the need to ensure its car parts can cross the border cheaply and efficiently and have taken the unprecedented step of moving its shut-down period to directly after the UK's withdrawal date on March 29.

The 40 apprentices being hired this year represents a drop compared to the 60 in 2018, but Oxford will get 25 new staff with the others split between Swindon and Hams Hall in Warwickshire.

Roles include maintenance, engineering, IT and business and will last between three and four years.

Plant spokesman Steve Wrelton said: "60 years ago a car was built in Oxford that revolutionised the automotive industry.

"Apprentices joining us in 2019 will play their part in an exciting new chapter of the story as Mini goes electric."

An information evening will be held in Oxford on January 17. See