BMW’s Mini and PSA’s Vauxhall are temporarily shutting UK plants in moves planned months ago to help the automakers deal with any disruption resulting from Brexit, which has since been delayed.
BMW moved its annual summertime shut down at its Mini plant in Oxford to April to minimise the risk of any possible short term part supply disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
PSA, which builds Astra models branded as Vauxhall in Britain and Opel on the continent at its Ellesmere Port factory near Liverpool, has brought forward its shut down in a decision made at the end of last year, a spokesman said.
Britain’s departure from the EU has now been pushed back from March until now or potentially much later, ruining some of the contingency plans of certain automakers. Shutdowns are organised far in advance so employee vacations can be scheduled and suppliers can adjust volumes, making them hard to move.
“This is what our company and our workforce have planned for over many months and it is fixed into our business planning,” said a BMW spokesman. The shutdowns represent the latest headache for Britain’s once-roaring car sector which has been on track for record production – but since 2017 has posted sharp falls in sales, output and investment.
The overwhelmingly foreign-owned industry has become increasingly incredulous as a stable and attractive investment environment descends into one of its deepest political crises, risking the free and frictionless trade the sector relies on.
BMW’s Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood will close for two weeks while Jaguar Land Rover’s three car plants and engine facility and Honda’s Swindon facility will also shut for a few days as part of Brexit contingencies.
It has been a turbulent few months for the sector after Nissan cancelled plans to build the X-Trail SUV at its Sunderland plant and Honda said it would shut its plant in 2021 in the biggest blow to the sector for years. Toyota provided a rare boost when it announced plans to build cars for Suzuki at its English car plant.
BMW, which is also closing its central English Hams Hall engine facility and Swindon press shop and sub-assembly site for four weeks has said it could move some engine and Mini output out of Britain if there it not an orderly Brexit.
Automakers face a number of risks if there is a disorderly Brexit, including delays to the supply of ports and finished models, new customs bureacracy, the need to recertify models and an up to 10% tariff on finished vehicles.
A series of investment decisions are coming up, including whether PSA will keep the Ellesmere Port site open and if it will build electric vans at its Luton facility, which is closed for three weeks as it’s retooled for production of the new Vivaro commercial van.
Petrochemicals firm Ineos is also due to choose the location of its off-roader whilst a decision is pending on whether JLR will build electric vehicles in its home market.