Mini enjoys a summer surge

By Sarah Arnott
Saturday 15 February 2014 05:08

The car-maker Mini is to re-hire more than 150 of the 850 factory workers it laid off earlier in the year thanks to an unexpectedly full order book for the summer ahead.

With demand outstripping supply for the first time in months, the company has already agreed a new shift pattern with the permanent staff at its Oxford plant and is in the process of taking on extra temporary staff to start work in July. A spokesman for Mini said: "Production plans for June and July show an increase in numbers which we have to meet and that means we can't use the existing working pattern."

In February, BMW – Mini's owner – was forced to lay off about 850 contract workers at its Cowley factory, blaming "volatile market conditions" for axing one of the three weekly shifts and shutting the plant at weekends for the first time. Despite a record year in 2008, Mini quickly fell into difficulties in January when UK sales plummeted by 35 per cent and worldwide orders fell by 34 per cent. But after three months of reduced output, orders are up again.{ With 85 per cent of its cars exported, Mini's order book says as much about the world market as about that in the UK.

Mini is not the only British carmaker to see glimmers of light ahead. Nissan has announced plans to recruit 150 people on fixed-term, four-month contracts to meet the extra demand expected from the Government's £2,000 scrappage incentive. But the signs of improvement remain tentative. Total car production dived by 55 per cent last month as nearly 85,000 fewer cars rolled out of UK factories than in April 2008. And over the year so far, sales are more than 25 per cent down.

Like Nissan, Mini is not yet banking on a sustainable recovery. It is offering re-hired staff short-term contracts only, with no longer-term commitment. A spokesman said: "We have very clearly told people that it may be only for three or four months."

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