Heart of MINI sees success all down line
- Credit: MINI
It's 15 years since the first reborn MINI rolled off the production line at Plant Oxford – motoring editor Andy Russell takes a tour of the modern role for this historic car factory.
A huge banner, proclaiming 'Heart of MINI', outside Plant Oxford at Cowley sums up the latest role for one of the world's oldest car factories.
For 15 years it has been central to the reborn MINI success, the latest chapter in its 103-year history.
Today, more than 4,500 people work at the site in Cowley, which makes around 1,000 cars a day, including three and five door MINIs, the MINI Clubman – and its first all-wheel drive All4 model – and the high-performance MINI John Cooper Works. The BMW Group, marking its centenary year in 2016, acquired the plant in 1994 and relaunched the brand there 2001 with the MINI Hatch.
Since then more than 2.5 million MINIs have been produced in Oxford, with the three million milestone expected to be hit later this year, with 80% of them exported to 110 countries. The UK is the biggest market, followed by America, Germany, China and France.
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Nearly 40,000 MINIs were sold worldwide in the first year. By last year this ha risen to nearly 340,000.
Frank Bachmann, managing director of MINI Plant Oxford, said: 'MINI is an iconic British brand that has made a remarkable journey over the past 15 years. In that time we've more than doubled our capacity and gone from producing just one model to an entire range of MINIs that have proved hugely popular with customers around the world.
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'Making 1,000 high-quality cars to individual order each day is a huge challenge but we succeed in doing so because of the passion and expertise of our workforce.'
The plant dates back to 1913 when William Morris, later Lord Nuffield, produced its first car, a 'Bullnose' Morris, near the current state-of-the-art MINI production facility. The classic Mini was produced at Oxford from 1959 until 1968 with a peak output of 94,889 cars during 1966-67.
Three UK plants are involved in MINI production - Hams Hall near Birmingham makes engines, Swindon body pressings and sub-assemblies and this all comes together at Oxford with body shell production, paint and final assembly.
Between 2012 and 2015 BMW Group invested £750m at the plants, taking investment in UK production to £1.75bn since 2000. At Oxford this has included a state-of-the-art paintshop, a high-technology body building facility, a new final assembly area, a new logistics centre, Quality and Engineering Centre and the MINIcademy, where the plant's apprentices are trained.