McLaren reverses Brexit trend by moving more production to UK

UK supercar maker McLaren Automotive Ltd. is bringing more work to Britain as it opens a composite-parts factory in northern England, bucking a trend among rivals to shift output elsewhere in the run up to Brexit.

The Formula 1 race team-turned auto manufacturer will switch production of carbon-fibre chassis to the new site near Sheffield, which opened Wednesday, from a supplier in Austria. The decision was made before 2016’s referendum on quitting the European Union, but McLaren has stuck with its plans.

Other automakers have moved or slowed UK output in the run up to the March 29 Brexit deadline. Jaguar Land Rover, Britain’s biggest car producer, announced in June that it would shift all construction of its Land Rover Discovery SUV to Slovakia, while Nissan Motor Co. said last month it was delaying wage talks with UK workers until the terms of the split from the EU are settled. BMW AG is shutting its Oxford Mini plant for a month from April.

McLaren’s 50 million-pound ($65 million) investment in the Yorkshire site creates a second UK facility alongside the company’s assembly line and technical centre in Woking, near London, which is also the base of the motor-sport team that’s the most successful in Formula 1 racing after Ferrari.

The company started building road-going models with the F1, then the world’s fastest street-legal auto, in the 1990s, but only entered volume production after the foundation of the automotive division in 2010. About 90 percent of McLarens are sent for export, mostly to the U.S., EU, China and Japan.

The Sheffield plant will enter full production at the start of 2020, lifting the average proportion of each McLaren built from UK-sourced parts from 50 percent by value to 58 percent. Even so, the company is concerned about how to move components and cars across the UK border after Brexit, commercial director Ruth Nic Aoidh said in an interview.

“What we are doing, like any sensible business, is scenario-planning, and trying to understand the potential changes to the status quo that may arise,” she said.

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