Today’s announcement was made at the British International Motor Show and follows a detailed study by Project Kimber, which was also considering production in the West Midlands and Germany.
The decision, which ends months of speculation, was made by Project Kimber in consultation with its prospective investors and with support from the Welsh Assembly Government’s International Business Wales team. Project Kimber is now looking at a number of suitable sites in South Wales.
Project Kimber said Wales was the preferred location due to the ‘significant offer of grant aid, the relevance of the location to ‘Britishness’, the strength and flexibility of the supply chain the level of expertise and R&D capability within Welsh University Centres of Excellence, the availability of a skilled workforce and the support of the Welsh Assembly Government and the Wales Automotive Forum’.
A series of meetings between Project Kimber, Smart and its parent company, DaimlerChrysler are under way to replace the Memorandum of Understanding signed in February this year with firm contracts. These are expected to be concluded in the near future.
Discussions with potential investors in the UK and North America are at an advanced stage and it is anticipated these will be concluded around the end of the summer. If these talks proceed according to plan, production is expected to commence around mid 2007 with an initial first 12 months’ volume of 8,000 units. This compares with Smart’s annual sales of around 15,000 units in both 2003 and 2004.
Further announcements on the developments of Project Kimber, including the decision regarding the chosen brand name, will be made at a later date.
Andrew Davies, Welsh Assembly Government Minister for Enterprise Innovation and Networks, welcomed the announcement and said it was an important step forward.
"The proposals by Project Kimber are very interesting and if successfully concluded will be a major boost for the Welsh automotive sector. We welcome the decision that Wales is their location of choice and shall continue to work closely with their team."
If negotiations are successfully concluded it will be the first car manufacturer to set up in Wales.