The Mini, one of Britain’s most iconic cars, created back in 1959 by Sir Alec Issigonis, has reached a huge new production milestone. BMW, its German parent-company, was able to celebrate the three-millionth model to be built during its ownership. However, they also announced that more models would have to be built abroad because their UK factory was full to capacity, so additional production is due to take place in Holland.
Britain will remain as the centre of Mini production though, as car number 3 million, a brand new brand new five-door Hatch Cooper S, came rolling off the production line sporting patriotic Union Jack paintwork, with Transport Minister Baroness Kramer sitting in the front seat.
To acknowledge this momentous achievement, Mini has published a stunning time-lapse film that shows how the car is built from scratch. They also revealed that two out of three Minis, which equates to more than two million in total, have been exported to over 110 markets on every continent in the world over the last 13 years.
The USA is the largest market for Mini’s, followed by the UK, Germany, China and France, with the combined total value of exports from the UK now approaching an incredible £30bn. BMW was able to revive the iconic British brand in 2001 when it launched a ‘new Mini’, which was actually much larger than the original 10ft square box that was created by Sir Alec Issigonis and was launched in 1959. Acclaimed worldwide and embraced by motorists, the car was emblematic of the Swinging Sixties and a world-beating rally and racing car.
The head of production at BMW, the renowned German car making giant, is Harald Kruger who declared that as the sales of the Mini continues to grow globally, its ‘heart’ will forever be in the UK and insisted that the plant in Oxford would remain as the number one production base. However, extra capacity is needed and production has to be expanded abroad to keep up with demand.
BMW also recently took over a former Mitsubishi and Volvo factory in Holland, which is set to absorb any additional capacity with the Oxford factory approaching peak production of 260,000 vehicles a year. The production figures at Oxford, where 4,000 people are employed, have been at around the 170,000 a year mark for the past couple of years. This was because the older Mini models were being phased out and the new ones increased in production. Herr Kruger said that full-capacity at Oxford could be reached next year or by 2016.
The Oxford factory has been producing the Mini since the first one rolled out in 1959, but once capacity is reached, they will be produced in Holland too. Herr Kruger said, “The factory in Holland will then take up additional assembly, but Oxford will remain number one. It will always remain at full capacity and we have no plans to build the Mini anywhere else. The heart of Mini is in the UK. Our Mini production in Oxford represents a commitment to the brand’s identity, firmly in line with our successful strategy of ‘production follows the market’. Oxford is the centre of our British MINI production network, with the Swindon pressings plant and the Hams Hall engine plant near Birmingham.”
Transport Minister Baroness Kramer was able to point out to workers and the bosses of BMW that car production in the UK is currently outstripping the boom years of the 1980s, saying, “Last year exports of British-built cars totalled £24.8bn, up from £12bn in 2004.” She went on to say, ““I congratulate the workers at Mini Plant Oxford on reaching this remarkable milestone. The Mini is a British icon and is a major part of a thriving automotive industry spearheading the growing British economy. This government is working to create the right environment for car manufacturers like BMW to continue innovating and developing British-made cars with worldwide appeal.”
BMW have also recently invested £750million before the launch of its latest models, which include a new 1,000-robot body shop at Oxford and laser welding plant at Swindon and at its Hams Hall engine factory. As well as employing around 8,000 people in the country, BMW spends more than £1billion every year with British suppliers.
Of the three million Minis that have been produced since 2002, more than two million of these have been exported to 110 countries with the USA being the biggest market registering more than 70,000 sales last year. The two millionth exported Mini to leave Oxford was a Volcanic Orange MINI Hatch, which was sold to a new customer in Japan.
BMW still has some way to go to catch up on the first Mini’s sales as more than 5.3 million of the original Minis were sold across the world between 1959 and 2000. The new Mini was also named ‘car of the year’ in the Auto Express motor industry ‘Oscars’ in July. The original 10ft square box Mini first went on sale in 1959 as the Morris Mini Minor and the Mini Austin Se7en and was priced from £497.
BMW launched the new MINI worldwide in 2001 after keeping hold of the MINI brand and the Oxford factory following its sell-off by the troubled Rover Group.
A company spokesman said, “It is a true British export success story with drivers in more than 110 markets falling in love with the famous marquee from USA to Uruguay and Turkey to Taiwan. In the intervening 13 years, the MINI range has grown from one to seven models meaning that the brand can now offer a car to cater for all tastes and requirements.”
Managing director of Mini Plants Oxford and Swindon, Frank Bachmann, said, “Everyone here is proud to be celebrating these two great milestones. The complexity of producing Minis for individual customers in more than 110 markets around the globe is a real testimony to the expertise of our workforce.”