BMW is reportedly in talks to take over the Honda factory in the English town of Swindon, after the site closes in 2021.
The plant, which is due to shut down when the current generation of Civic is discontinued and production reverts to Japan, could be useful for BMW as it looks to expand production of the X1, according to Autocar. The small SUV accounts for 13 per cent of the brand’s global sales, and demand is booming.
BMW’s subsidiary Mini already builds its cars in the UK on the same chassis that underpins the X1. Compatible engines come from a factory near Birmingham and body panels are already pressed near Swindon. The vast Honda facility could provide all the capacity BMW would need to meet not just X1 demand, but demand for other models as well.
The next 1-series will likewise use a Mini chassis, and with BMW shifting 200,000 of the compact hatchbacks year, building them in a country with available capacity and a pre-existing supply chain makes sense.
The Mini factory in Oxford is currently at maximum capacity, building 1100 cars per day, but the tightly-knit Mini operation in the UK would be able to feed new production lines in Swindon and mean BMW could avoid the complexity and expense of shipping major parts internationally.
Under Honda, the Swindon factory has been capable of producing around 300,000 cars per year but has been running at half capacity for years. Some 3500 people are set to lose their jobs in 2021, and any interest in the site from another major car maker would be desperately welcome news for the town.