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.
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.