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Mini will pause Oxford production line due to computer chip shortage


Mini will lose three days of production at its Oxford factory as the carmaker contends with shortages of computer chips, amid global supply chain problems.

The plant will pause production on Friday, over the bank holiday, as well as Tuesday and Wednesday while it waits for more supplies of chips.

Mini, owned by BMW, is the latest manufacturer in the UK that has been forced to temporarily stop making cars. Jaguar Land Rover, the largest automotive manufacturing employer in the UK, closed its Castle Bromwich and Halewood factories this week, also blaming the chip shortage. Honda has previously paused production at its Swindon plant.

The Mini plant and a BMW metal-stamping plant in Swindon employ about 4,500 workers making the three-door and five-door version of the brand’s flagship car, as well as the electric version launched in July 2019. The shutdown was an inauspicious way to mark 20 years and 5m cars since the launch of the modern Mini on 26 April 2001.

The UK car industry has struggled with persistent disruptions in recent years, ranging from preparing for a no-deal Brexit that was averted at the last moment to weeks of shutdowns during the first coronavirus lockdown.

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UK car production rose in March, the first time in 18 months that output was higher than the previous year, according to data published on Thursday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the industry lobby group. The industry made 115,498 cars during the month, 46.6% higher than March 2020, when the first lockdown began.

However, output remained 23% lower than the five-year average for March production, in a sign of the long road to full recovery still ahead for UK carmakers.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said production “remains below average, with some £11bn worth of production lost over the past year”. He added: “While the Covid situation is improving in the UK and in some major export markets, manufacturers are still struggling to manage residual issues, most notably the global semiconductor shortage.”

The chip shortage has added a new challenge as it seeks to recover from the Covid-19 downturn. The semiconductor industry that makes computer chips has failed to keep up with demand after it bounced back faster than expected during the pandemic. Changing working patterns have meant higher sales of personal computers, while many consumers with more savings have splashed out on new phones, according to economists.

Many carmakers have found themselves at the back of the queue for chips after they cancelled orders at the start of the pandemic, fearing a long downturn in sales. Instead, sales have recovered relatively well in many parts of the world.

At the same time, newer cars have required an ever higher number of onboard computers, handling functions that range from entertainment and air-conditioning to driver assistance technology and the battery management systems that are crucial to electric cars.



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