Mini and Qashqai are mini cash cows for UK auto industry

Good news: BMW and Nissan will spend £700m building their new cars here in Blighty (even if the profits will end up elsewhere)

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

UK plc hasn’t exactly been overwhelmed with reasons to cheer lately. So yesterday's news that Japanese carmaker Nissan will design, develop and build the latest version of its popular Qashqai model in our green and pleasant land - followed this morning by news that BMW plans to make its new Mini here too - has to be cause for celebration. This amounts to nearly £700m worth of inward investment – which safeguards a lot of jobs (not only at the factories concerned but also with its UK suppliers) and provides a welcome shot in the arm for UK manufacturing. Now all we need is lots more success stories like these…

Nissan said today that the new model would be designed at its London Paddington design centre, developed at its technical centre in Cranfield, and built at its production plant in Sunderland – which has already churned out the best part of 1m Qashqais in the last few years. So it's not exactly a massive departure for Nissan - as CEO Carlos Ghosn said today, the UK ‘has been a cornerstone of Nissan manufacturing since 1986’ - but it's welcome news nonetheless. And the same goes for BMW's plan to invest a further £500 in its UK production facilities, principally the factory in Oxford that has already churned out 2m Minis in the last decade.

But this is not just about convenience. Ghosn pointed out today that Nissan's Sunderland plant has set important benchmarks for quality and efficiency in Europe and around the world’, and that he expects it to become ‘one of the pillars of our zero-emission manufacturing’. In other words, as Vince Cable said today, these two factories represent two of the great success stories of British manufacturing’ – in a specialist field that Britain does better than almost anyone else. An industry that seemed to be dying a death in the 1970s is now worth around £25bn, roughly 10% of UK exports. The Mini has become a British icon - and although the Qashqai might not be as sexy as some of the classic cars previously made in the UK, it’s worth its weight in gold at the moment.

Incidentally, if you’re as keen as Nissan on cutting emissions, you might be interested in a new scheme currently under consideration in Australia; the idea is that farmers will be able to claim carbon credits by killing local camels, who apparently belch out huge amounts of methane. We must admit that we never realised the threat feral camels posed to the planet, but seemingly that’s just ignorance on our part. ‘If everyone knew what they were doing, people would be more concerned,’ Dr Moore told the FT, ‘especially when they start coming into town and kicking down your toilet.’ Hard to argue with that, isn't it?

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