Ladies and Gentlemen,
I just want to say what an enormous pleasure it is to have this chance to visit you here today at Mini Cowley, a site which I know, for nearly a century, has been a byword for British industry, and of course a hugely important part of life in this great city.
At least my test drive a moment ago was on the whole without incident and only went to prove that the new Mini is “silent, but deadly!” and also a very good colour indeed if I may say so and to paraphrase the immortal words of Sir Michael Caine – “At least I didn’t blow the bloody doors off!”
Now it is remarkable however, to reflect that the original Mini was launched in 1959 – so long ago that I was still much too young to drive! And even though it feels like only yesterday that the new Mini Cooper was launched, it was in fact twenty years ago – before some of the marvellous apprentices I have met here today were even born…!
And I must say, I am delighted to see that you are providing such excellent opportunities for young people, equipping them with the cutting-edge skills that will be so vital if we are to continue to compete in the industries of tomorrow.
Having said that, I understand that some of you here are third – even fourth – generation employees. Which is quite a remarkable fact when you think about it, and a real tribute to the role that this plant plays in the community as a “family company.”
And for a large part of my life I have been trying to draw attention for the need to operate as sustainably as possible and within country boundaries, so it really is very encouraging to see the breath of the sustainability measures that are being implemented across the company, not just in the development of a practical and popular electric vehicle, but in all that you are doing across the factory sites to reduce carbon footprints across the product life-cycle. Like having photovoltaic panels on the roof and on the roofs of the factory building is remarkable and something which we seem to have been missing a trick about for years. Twenty years ago, an Electric Mini would have seemed impossible, and yet I understand that, by 2030, Mini will be the first BMW Group brand to go fully electric.
Incidentally, my late father, The Duke of Edinburgh, used an electric vehicle based on the Bedford Lucas CV as early as 1981, and of course famously drove his eco-friendly liquid petroleum gas powered Metro-cab all over London – it is now on display in the museum at Sandringham in Norfolk. And for all its worth I have been running my fifty-one year old Aston Martin on surplus English white wine, and whey from the dairy industry, for quite some time – which has meant that the Aston Martin engineers have had to admit that, much to their surprise, it runs better on that fuel than it did on petrol!
The development of technology like electric vehicles, or green hydrogen for that matter for heavy transport, is vital for maintaining the health of our world for future generations, something I am only too aware of today, having recently become a grandfather for the fifth time. Such happy news really does remind one of the necessity of continued innovation in this area – especially around sustainable battery technology – in view of the legacy we bequeath to our grandchildren.
We will clearly need every ounce of the enterprise, ingenuity and dedication which has made this plant and its workforce and its products world famous, as we build a much more durable, circular economy for the future of our communities and our planet. As you take forward that task, I can only wish you all every possible success and good fortune in the future.
Thank you, well done and happy 20th anniversary.