BMW has confirmed that it will stop building the electric version of the Mini in the UK next year, which will leave its Oxford factory entirely dependent on petrol models for much of the next decade.
The German automaker launched its first battery-powered version of the historic Mini Cooper in 2019 as part of a wave of models being released by automakers to help them meet tougher EU emissions rules.
The model proved to be more successful than expected, winning numerous awards and accounting for a third of the vehicles produced at BMW’s Oxford plant.
The German automaker announced in 2019 that it would manufacture an updated battery-powered Mini in China from 2024, which it will export worldwide, including to Britain.
The model, made by BMW’s Chinese joint venture partner Great Wall Motors, will have about double the range of the current version.
BMW officially announced the end of the first electric Mini built in Oxford last November.
Although the automaker has always planned to stop production after four years, around halfway through the industry’s standard life cycle, the withdrawal of one of the most popular UK battery models will be a serious blow to the sector.
Jaguar Land Rover’s first electric car, the Jaguar I-Pace, is already being manufactured in Austria, while Norfolk-based Lotus will manufacture its first electric SUVs at a factory in China.
However, new investment from Nissan and Stellantis means UK electric vehicle production is set to continue to increase in the coming years.
The UK car industry has called for more support during the energy transition, in particular to encourage battery manufacturers to invest in Britain to enable current factories to go electric over the next decade.
The most popular electric car built in the UK remains the Nissan Leaf, which is built in Sunderland.
Although the BMW plant in Oxford was adapted in 2019 to manufacture the electric model and is capable of producing petrol and battery-powered cars side-by-side, the assembly line still required additional workers each time a electric version was produced, in order to adapt to the battery imported from Germany.
The facility “just isn’t suitable for mass production” of electric cars, said Stefanie Wurst, managing director of the Mini brand.
The factory requires “major investment” to be able to manufacture large-scale battery models in the future, she added.
The company expects electric car production to return to Oxford at a later time, but has not set a date for the next model.
As a general rule, car manufacturers renew their vehicles every seven or eight years, so the future generation of the next electric Mini should be decided towards the end of this decade.
The Mini brand has pledged to sell only electric cars from the early 2030s, and still intends to retain a base in Oxford.
The plant will make five- and three-door petrol versions, as well as the open-top model that was previously made in the Netherlands.
BMW also produces Mini in Germany in Leipzig, where it will manufacture the electric version of the larger Mini Countryman. Its new Chinese factory will also produce an all-electric model called the Aceman.