The New Mini Betrayal; MERCURY INVESTIGATION Built in Britain but Made by Firms from Brazil, Germany, Italy, France, Hungary and America

Article excerpt

THIS is the new-look Mini to be unveiled to the world later this month.

And German owners BMW are hoping to capitalise on the 'Britishness' which made the original such a hit.

But an investigation by the Sunday Mercury has revealed that the new model - being built at the Rover's former Cowley works - is far from home-grown.

BMW is refusing to reveal any details about its new car, but motor industry insiders believe up to 70 per cent of its components will come from abroad.

It is a startling fact that has led to further accusations of BMW kicking the Midlands and the UK car industry in the teeth.

And it fuels fears that the German car giant could soon move its entire Mini operation back to Munich.

Ever since it hit the roads in 1959, the Mini has been an institution known worldwide to be as British as The Beatles.

But that image will be shattered by the news that most of BMW's new millennium Mini will be constructed from foreign-produced parts.

Last week, BMW finished moving the production line from Longbridge in Birmingham to Cowley.

A company spokesman claimed it was too early to say where the parts will come from - despite the fact that the car will be launched at the Paris Motor show at the end of this month.

It is well-known that the engine will be built in Brazil. The Sunday Mercury has also learned that the six-speed gearbox will come from Germany.

Industry insiders believe the dashboard fascia will be produced in eastern Europe - probably Hungary - the rear axle and suspension will come from Germany, with the windows and wiring probably coming from Italy and France respectively.

The seats, at least, will be made in the Midlands - albeit by an American-owned company.

Overall, our experts believe up to 70 per cent of the components in the new car will be sourced from abroad.

One insider said: 'Ever since the Mini was taken out of Longbridge, BMW has been sourcing more and more parts from abroad. They were always going to use a Brazilian-built engine and it is generally thought that when the car hits the streets, 70 per cent of the parts will come from outside the UK.

'All this means it is increasingly likely that BMW will eventually take production of the new Mini back to Munich.'

Not even the designer is a Brit. The new Mini, which will go on sale next summer costing about pounds 10,000 for a basic model, was styled by American Frank Stephenson.

Sir Ken Jackson, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, who will this week launch a stinging attack on the government's failure to back UK manufacturers, said he was appalled that BMW was pushing so much business away from Britain. …