Mini goes slow as recession bites the industry

Latest sign of auto sector slowdown comes as industry leaders warn of a tough 2009

Production of the Mini is to be cut back in the latest sign of problems facing car makers in the wake of the economic slowdown.

Workers at the firm's factories in Oxford and Swindon have been told the two-week Christmas shutdown is to be extended to four weeks, resulting in 9,000 fewer Minis being produced.

New figures on new car sales in Britain last month show the biggest monthly year-on-year fall for more than 17 years – a drop of 23.05 per cent to 128,352.

Motor industry leaders predicted that annual sales in 2009 would dip below the two million mark for the first time since 1995.

The news is the latest blow to the industry following an announcement earlier this week by Jaguar Land Rover that a voluntary redundancy scheme is to be extended to almost 600 workers, compared with the 198 places previously offered.

Jaguar Land Rover said the programme is being applied to plants at Halewood on Merseyside and Solihull and Castle Bromwich in the West Midlands.

The firm, which is owned by Indian motor maker Tata, employs around 15,000 workers in the UK.

David Smith, chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover said: "While regrettable these are necessary actions to manage our rebusiness through a very challenging period."

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