Traditionally the only time British car production facilities
turned up on our TV screens, was to see massed pickets preventing
workers from gaining access. So it was with great surprise and
expectation that I sat down to absorb the BBC's new offering,
Building Cars live.
We were told to expect a journey into the fascinating and secret
world of modern car production, with an exploration of the
evolution of global mass production, with ex-Top Gear presenter
James May leading the way.
It was fascinating to go behind the scenes at Plant Oxford, as
it's called, where a brand new MINI drives off the production line
just about every minute. In the first episode we were introduced to
the vast army of robots that work alongside hundreds of diligent
humans that combine so expertly to dispel the myth that British
manufacturing is dead.
I have to admit to a personal interest in the subject matter,
given the small, but we like to think essential part Borough plays
in the creation of the huge range of MINI models available. And
although the materials have changed considerably over the life of
the car, chrome still features heavily inside and out for the
Although the cars roll off the production line in Oxford, the
other two plants are integral to the build of each car, with Plant
Hams Hall supplying the engines and Plant Swindon producing the
body pressings and sub-assemblies.
We even got to see some of our components winging their way
along the production line, which raised an involuntary shout of
delight. Many of the chrome plated ABS components we supply feature
in sub-assemblies, which require a huge degree of variation, given
one manager on the production line stated that they have never
turned out two cars the same, in all the years they have been
It is perhaps this ability for customers to order a uniquely
specified car that has seen the incredible growth of the brand in
recent years. This growth has seen more than 2.5 million cars built
at Plant Oxford, since production of new MINI started in 2001 and
delivered to proud owners in more than 110 countries across the
The need for chrome plated components to cope with the weather
and road conditions in this huge number of countries ensures we
have to work hard to create products not only of high quality, but
high durability. Interior satin chrome has to cope with much the
same conditions everywhere, but the bright exterior chrome has to
survive extreme heat, extreme cold, salt, sand and humidity, whilst
retaining the high polish for which it is renowned.
We are proud to be part of the about 40% of components that MINI
relies on from UK-based suppliers and hope programmes like this
that emphasise the strength of the automotive sector in the UK,
become a permanent fixture of BBC schedules in the future. Best
tart up our offices in preparation for the arrival of the cameras!