Today a centenary exhibition was opened in the new Visitor Centre at MINI Plant Oxford by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Harald Krueger, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, to mark this major industrial milestone.
One hundred years ago to the day, the first ‘Bullnose’ Morris Oxford was built by William Morris just a few hundred metres from where the modern MINI plant stands.
With a weekly production of just 20 vehicles in 1913, the business grew rapidly and over the century 11.65 million cars were produced, bearing 13 different British brands and one Japanese. Almost 500, 000 people have worked at the plant in the past 100 years and in the early 1960s numbers peaked at 28,000. Today, Plant Oxford employs 3,700 associates who manufacture up to 900 MINIs every day.
Congratulating the plant on its historic milestone, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “The Government is working closely with the automotive industry so that it continues to compete and thrive in the global race and the success of MINI around the world stands as a fine example of British manufacturing at its best. The substantial contribution which the Oxford plant has made to the local area and the British economy over the last 100 years is something we should be proud of.”
Over the years an array of famous cars were produced including the Morris Minor, the Mini, the Morris Marina, the Princess, the Austin Maestro and today’s MINI. At various stages in its history, the plant also built Tiger Moth aircraft, ambulances, parachutes and iron lungs.
William Morris, later Lord Nuffield, was one of the country’s most generous philanthropists and could be considered as the Bill Gates of his time donating gifts estimated to be the equivalent of £11 billion at today’s values. He manufactured iron lungs at the plant and donated them to local hospitals, and he founded Nuffield Health, Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust and Nuffield College at Oxford University.
Today, Plant Oxford is the heart of MINI production with the manufacture of the MINI Hatch, Convertible, Clubman, Clubvan, Roadster and Coupé. While visiting the plant, Mr McLoughlin viewed the new bodyshop and some of the 1,000 new robots being installed in this facility. It represents the lion’s share of BMW Group’s £750 million UK investment programme, preparing the company’s manufacturing facilities for the next generation MINI.
Commenting on the future of the plant, Mr McLoughlin said: Commenting on the future of the plant, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “A thriving automotive sector is central to this Government’s commitmenttodriving economic growth. By creating jobs and exporting British-made products to global markets, MINI is sending a clear message that this country is open for business. These celebrations are not just an occasion to recognise MINI’s distinguished heritage, but a chance to look forward to the vital contribution it will continue to make to manufacturing in Oxford and the UK as a whole.”
Today’s celebrations at MINI are not just an occasion to look back with nostalgia on past achievements, but an opportunity to recognise the vitally important contribution that manufacturing will continue to make to the UK’s economic future.”
The Oxford plant has a long history of export success and generated many billions of pounds in exports revenues for the UK with Morris products accounting for nearly 30 per cent of the nation’s total exports by the mid 1930s. Plant Oxford’s export record is equally impressive today with no less than 1.7 million MINIs having been exported to over 100 countries since 2001 and the plans for the future are for further expansion.
Harald Krueger said: “We have ambitious growth plans for MINI and are now preparing for the launch of the next generation of the MINI family. We will grow the model range in the coming years and our volume expectations in the medium term will see MINI reaching well beyond the current 300,000 annual car sales worldwide.”
Among the special guests attending the opening of the exhibition was former employee Eric Lord who celebrated his 93rd birthday today having worked at the plant from when he was 20 years old in 1940 to his retirement in 1979.