It’s been two decades to the day since a tiny little runabout changed BMW’s destiny forever. After a protracted development and a fractious relationship with Rover that led to a high-profile split, the first MINI Hatch (not to be confused with the original Alec Issigonis-designed Mini) rolled off the then-new Oxford production line on April 26, 2001.
Since then, the fashionable icon has spanned three generations and two body styles (3-door and 5-door), plus a slew of derivatives that include the extant Clubman and Countryman – the former is also built in Oxford on the same production line. The southeastern English city has also been churning out the brand’s only fully-electric model, the MINI Cooper SE hatch, starting last year.
In total, over five million MINIs have been produced in the United Kingdom – including at the nearby Plant Swindon, which began pressing body parts a few months earlier at the beginning of 2001. Both facilities currently employ over 4,500 personnel (including 130 apprentices) that together build around 1,000 cars every day – or one every 67 seconds.
“Congratulations to everyone at MINI Plants Oxford and Swindon for reaching such a great manufacturing milestone,” said BMW Group chairman Oliver Zipse, who ran manufacturing at Oxford from 2007 to 2008. “I still have very fond memories of my time at Oxford. It was a real pleasure to work at the home and heart of the MINI brand with such engaging and passionate people, nearly one quarter of whom have dedicated these 20 years or more to building our cars.”
Plants Oxford and Swindon managing director Peter Weber added, “I am extremely proud of our teams at Oxford and Swindon and the incredible job they do. Their continued commitment and passion over the past 20 years has helped to strengthen MINI’s reputation around the world.”
Both factories had a storied history long before the MINI project even began. The two facilities were originally Morris plants, with Oxford debuting the Ford-style assembly line in the UK in 1914 and Swindon supporting production in 1956. Remnants of the British Leyland empire, the plants were acquired by BMW as part of the purchase of Rover in 1994.
The MINI marque will also lead BMW into the age of electrification – the brand will debut its last fossil fuel-powered vehicle in 2025 and transition into a fully electric lineup by the early 2030s, the first of Munich’s subsidiaries to do so.
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