Brexit Uncertainty Puts BMW's Planned Next-Generation Mini Cooper On Ice
Automakers prefer stability and predictability in markets and trade agreements. That's not Brexit.
This just in from Frankfurt: BMW is hitting the brakes on the next-generation Mini Cooper because of a small British economic snafu, Brexit. That is not, of course, the absconding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry to Canada, but rather Britain's exit from the European Union. As reported by Reuters, BMW claims that the current Mini's lifespan has "been extended . . . For cost reasons and because of Brexit."
Britain formally left the European Union last week, and since Bavarian-based BMW has owned Mini since 1994 and developed three generations of the iconic and no-longer-small British car in the interim, it's on the hook for some Brexit effects. (Breffects?) British trade relations with the EU are currently up in the air, and because the current Mini Cooper is built in Oxford, England, that means BMW is in a pickle.
New car platforms cost big bucks in the research and development department, and with the uncertainty surrounding Britain and the EU hashing out a new trade deal, you better get used to the current F46 hardtop Mini. The complexities of global trade and the long lead times in vehicle development are colliding here—automakers prefer stable, predictable trade and regulatory environments—and so variabilities on tariffs between Britain and other markets could force British Mini production to move elsewhere, perhaps to the Netherlands where the Mini convertible and Countryman models are assembled along with the BMW X1. That said, it's difficult and expensive to pick up the tooling for a brand-new model such as the next-gen Mini and move it from one place to another, hence why BMW is waiting to see what Brexit holds for the future before committing one way or the other.
According to the Reuters report, Mini sales dropped by 4.1 percent last year to 346,639 cars. The all-electric Mini Cooper SE is currently built in Oxford and BMW is likely move its production to China, per recent Bloomberg reports. And BMW isn't alone in facing trade-based uncertainty in the region: Nissan, Toyota, Honda, and others have plants in the U.K. So, there probably will be more new-car delays and supply-chain issues (the Honda Civic Type R's engine, for example, is assembled in Britain) rippling throughout the industry as a result of Brexit.