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Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 18:50 GMT
BMW 'boosts economic hope'
Interior of BMW's Cowley plant, Oxford
The plant is expected to build 100,000 Minis this year
Car giant BMW's investment in the Mini car plant has been hailed as proof long-term economic confidence will survive the current downturn.

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt made the claim as she visited the plant at Cowley, Oxford, on Wednesday.

Her visit came as the company geared up for a major expansion of their new model into North America and Japan.

The Cowley plant is the only place in the world where Minis are currently being produced and has been transformed by a 230m investment by BMW.

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt
Patricia Hewitt: "bright prospect"

Ms Hewitt was given a tour of the state-of-the-art production line where some 100,000 Mini's are expected to be rolled-out this year

Ms Hewitt said: "Manufacturing is having a hard time at the moment, in the UK and in other leading world economies, but we must look at examples like BMW's massive investment in this new plant as real the pointers to the future.

"Next month's launch of the Mini in North America and Japan demonstrates that UK manufacturing remains a very bright prospect for the 21st Century."

The new Mini has been a critical and commercial success for BMW since it was rolled-out in July 2001.

'Fantastic example'

Ms Hewitt said: "The new Mini is a modern manufacturing success, for both BMW and the skilled workforce at Oxford.

"It is the sort of manufacturing project that the DTI is encouraging to locate to the UK.

"I strongly believe that UK manufacturing in the 21st Century is not about churning out low-grade, low-value goods, but harnessing new ideas and leading-edge technology to develop world-class products.

"The new Mini is a fantastic example of this."

Dr Herbert Diess, managing director of BMW Group's Oxford plant, said: "The Mini has been very well received and in 2001 we produced just over 42,000 Minis instead of the 30,000 planned.

"In 2002 we will comfortably achieve our target of building 100,000 cars at Oxford.

"About 70% of the plant's production volume is exported and we are looking forward to meeting the challenge of introducing the car in the US and Japan."

Click here to go to Oxford
See also:

03 Sep 01 | Business
BMW recalls new Mini
07 Jul 01 | Business
New Mini on sale
06 Jul 01 | Business
New Mini goes on sale
22 May 01 | Business
A new life for the Mini
22 May 01 | Business
Picture Gallery: The new Mini
28 Sep 00 | Business
The Mini finally grows
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