BMW reportedly planning to move production of a new electric Mini out of the UK to Germany; Ford reportedly pondering hundreds of job cuts at its plant in Wales ... the UK car sector could be getting an early taste of what Brexit might mean. David Pollard reports.
Iconic ... British ... the world-beating Mini was reborn in 1997... With Germany's BMW at the wheel this time - but production kept at Cowley in the UK. Now media reports say a new, electric Mini, could be built in Germany instead. Threatening to turn tradition on its head. SOUNDBITE (English) JON QUIRK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, AUTO TRADER, SAYING: "Not only is Mini Cowley the home of the modern Mini ... it also has the original footings for the Morris Motor Company and that's the company that originally created the old mini back in 1959." SOUNDBITE (English) BRITISH PRIME MINISTER, THERESA MAY, SAYING: "Our automotive sector is, it's one of the most productive in the world ..." Keen to protect that sector, the UK government gave special reassurances to keep Nissan on British soil. It may struggle to keep others. This week, unions pointed a finger at Ford. As the American carmaker reportedly ponders a thousand or more job cuts at its engine plant in Wales. UK car production is close to a decade peak - but Brexit nerves may be starting to bite. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PANMURE GORDON CHIEF ECONOMIST, SIMON FRENCH, SAYING: "The revival, of course, is threatened by uncertainty over Brexit. It's not clear yet what tariffs regime, what customs regime producers of cars in the UK are going to face post-Brexit." France's PSA Group has pledged to respect Opel and its UK subsidiary Vauxhall's job guarantees until the end of next year - if it buys the European arm of General Motors. Some analysts say thousands of jobs may still need to go for the deal to work. The sector itself also under not just UK - or even European - pressures ..... SOUNDBITE (English) ELMAR DEGENHART, CEO CONTINENTAL AG, SAYING: "We believe that free trade is helping to save jobs .... If a protectionism movement would start in the world, the end consumer would be the loser because prices would go up and that would impact the industry in a negative way." ARCHIVE ON MINI 'LITTLE GIANT' From little giant to giant challenges, these could be telling times for a UK car sector trying to stay on track.