BMW-owned car makers Mini and Rolls-Royce will shut down their factories in the UK as the coronavirus pandemic continues. The closures are due to come into force at four facilities across southern England on Monday, March 23.
In a press release earlier today (March 18) Rolls-Royce confirmed its Goodwood factory would close on March 23 for four weeks, while a report from Automotive News Europe (ANE) said Mini will follow suit, shutting its plants in Oxford, Hams Hall and Swindon until April 17. However, Rolls-Royce’s closure coincides with a pre-planned Easter maintenance shutdown, which would have covered the final two weeks of the four-week pause anyway.
In a statement, Rolls-Royce said it had taken the decision to close the Goodwood plant to “secure the health and welfare of the employees”. However, the offices will remain open, and non-production employees will either work from the office or from home on a “rotational” basis. The company also made it clear that it was taking “social distancing measures”.
Torsten Müller-Ötvös, the chief executive officer at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, said the company hoped customers would understand the reasons behind delayed deliveries arising from the halt in production.
“This action has not been taken lightly, but the health and well-being of our exceptional workforce is first and foremost in our minds,” he said. “We are a tight-knit community at the Home of Rolls‑Royce and I have no doubt that our resilience will shine through during this extraordinary time. As a deeply customer-focused company we are aware that this decision to pause our production will possibly cause some discomfort or inconvenience to a few of our esteemed patrons, for which we apologise while seeking their understanding at this difficult time.”
According to ANE, however, the Mini plants’ closure was both to protect the health of employees, but also a response to a decline in global demand. And ANE says the brand cited “the potential for disruption to our suppliers” as a reason.
In a statement today, the companies’ parent firm, BMW, confirmed it expected automotive deliveries to customers to be “significantly below” last year’s level. The company’s chairman, Oliver Zipse, said the company could react “quickly and flexibly” to the issue.
“We take our responsibility seriously, both when it comes to ensuring the protection and health of our employees and to achieving the best possible balance in terms of profitability,” he said. “One thing is certain: coronavirus is here now, but there will also be a time after coronavirus.
“Solidarity and responsible action are called for. In our society it is the duty of the strong to protect the weak.”
And BMW’s general works council chairman, Manfred Schoch, sought to reassure employees that their jobs would be safe.
“In times of crisis, as we are experiencing right now, the general works council seeks to provide a clear sense of direction for associates,” he said. “Our top priority is to protect their health, and safeguard their jobs and incomes. The general works council has agreed three important tools to make this possible: flexible BMW working time accounts, the option of working from home, and the latest company regulation on short-time work. This stipulates that the net income of a pay-scale employee at BMW must amount to at least 93 percent of their usual sum. I am convinced that these three tools will allow us to navigate our staff safely through the corona crisis.”