GENEVA — Production of BMW's Mini will still be disrupted if there is a delay to Brexit, the carmaker's CEO said Tuesday, signaling the auto industry faces upheaval even if Britain avoids crashing out of the European Union without a withdrawal deal on March 29.
Britain's car industry, which employs around 850,000 people and is largely owned by foreign manufacturers, has been rushing through plans to cope with the potential disruption of a no-deal Brexit, such as building up inventories and in some cases organizing plant closures around Brexit day.
But Prime Minister Theresa May said last week that if U.K. lawmakers again rejected her Brexit deal, she would offer them a series of votes that could lead her to ask Brussels for a delay.
BMW said in September it was moving the annual maintenance shutdown for its Mini plant in Oxford, England, to April in case of disruption caused by Brexit.
"We have made preparations. If Brexit is delayed we can postpone some measures, but the early summer break remains scheduled for April," CEO Harald Krueger said at the Geneva auto show.
Shutdowns and stockpiles take time and money to arrange. For example, employee vacations and suppliers are affected.
And so while carmakers want to avoid a no-deal Brexit, they also do not want the process to drag on.
BMW made 234,183 cars in Britain last year, out of the country's total production of about 1.5 million.