March 22, 2017 / 5:21 PM / 3 years ago

Staff levels at BMW's Dutch Mini assembly plant to overtake UK's

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - BMW’s (BMWG.DE) X1 model will be built in the Netherlands, it said on Wednesday, boosting staff levels at Mini’s contract manufacturer VDL Nedcar beyond those at the German carmaker’s plant in Oxford, England, where the Mini hatch is made.

FILE PHOTO: Workers assemble cars at the plant for the Mini range of cars in Cowley, near Oxford, Britain June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Leon Neal/Pool/File Photo

Harald Krueger, BMW’s Chief Executive, said on Tuesday that more production could move to the Netherlands depending on the outcome of Britain’s negotiations to leave the European Union.

BMW has 4,600 staff working in Oxford, while VDL currently employs 4,500 staff. Both plants produce the Mini. Adding production of the X1 in August will boost Dutch staff numbers to more than 5,000, marking a sharp rise from only 1,500 in 2012.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said this week she will trigger EU divorce proceedings on March 29 and Krueger’s comment comes as BMW decides where to build an electric Mini this year.

“The UK remains an important location for us. Much will depend on how Brexit is ultimately negotiated. At the BMW Group, we are preparing for different scenarios. Our production network offers us flexibility,” Krueger said at the company’s annual results conference.

While Oxford still builds more cars, having produced 210,971 vehicles last year compared with 87,609 cars made by VDL in the same period, the Dutch plant at Born could produce up to 200,000 if it operated a two shift system.

BMW is deciding where to make an electric version of its Mini this year, with factories in England, the Netherlands and Germany vying for the business.

VDL said it started making a plug-in hybrid version of the Mini countryman this month, adding some electric vehicle expertise to its production site, which already makes the Mini 3-door, the Mini Convertible and the Mini Countryman

BMW said the electric motors installed in the Mini Countryman are supplied from BMW’s factory in Dingolfing, Bavaria.

VDL said it won the contract to build the X1 because extra capacity was needed to supplement the BMW plant in Regensburg.

Because the X1 and the Mini are both based on BMW’s UKL platform, production of the X1 could theoretically have been shifted to Oxford, BMW executives have said.

Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Alexander Smith

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