In 1961, the British Motor Corporation launched the Mini Cooper, a car that took the humble Mini – already an icon of British design and engineering – and turned it into a supercar. Fifty years on, it is very fitting that BMW, Mini’s new owners, have announced they will be investing a further €565 million to build the latest Mini in the UK, its original home.
This is not just a treat for nostalgia lovers, it’s good news for the UK economy too, because it will guarantee the future of Plant Oxford, where the car will be made. For nearly 100 years this site has been a bedrock of the British motoring industry, and the success of the new Mini, with nearly a quarter of a million sales in 2010 alone (8,700 of those in Spain), shows that Plant Oxford has a very real role to play in the modern world.
BMW’s vote of confidence in British design and manufacturing skills and in the British workforce, will also help to lay to rest a few myths about our economy. It is sometimes said that the modernisation of the British economy over the last 30 years has resulted in an economy that is exclusively based on financial and business services and creative industries. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although we are world leaders in those areas, Britain is also the world’s 9th largest manufacturing nation, and UK manufacturing output grew 3.6 per cent in real terms in 2010. Our motor vehicle industry alone contributes over £10billion to the economy and directly employs 180,000 people. Approximately 1.3million cars and commercial vehicles were produced in the UK in 2010 and, importantly, automotive exports accounted for over 11 per cent of UK manufactured exports in 2010.
And Britain’s traditional excellence in advanced engineering goes far wider than just the automobile industry. Our aerospace industry is the second largest in the world, generating revenue of £22 billion in 2009 – that represents a 17% share of the market..
BMW is not the only car manufacturer to see the benefits of Britain. Just last week Nissan announced that they will be building the new Qashqai in Sunderland. It is terrific to have two of the world’s major motor manufacturers announcing such big investments in such a short space of time.
And this brings me to the second myth I hope we can dispel. Despite the recession, Britain continues to attract more overseas investment than any other country in the world apart from the US. Countries come to Britain not just because of our manufacturing expertise but also because the UK is a leading global trading nation, is the easiest place to set up and run a business in Europe, and has the least barriers to entrepreneurship in the world.
Add to that UK Government’s aim of having the lowest Corporation tax rate in the G7 and to be amongst the lowest in the G20 and you have an environment that is ripe for investment. But don’t just take my word for it, ask the likes of BMW and Nissan.
For more information on doing business in the UK and in Spain, visit ukinspain.fco.gov.uk