In the late 1990s, the automotive industry was governed by a very different scenario than it is today. The large groups from China and India had not yet emerged strongly, and traditional manufacturers had several brands in their portfolio.
The BMW group, for example, took advantage of moments of crisis for the Rover and MG brands to expand its presence. The purchase also allowed the Bavarians to keep the rights to Mini, a brand that still produced the small models, but without the importance of decades ago.
MG and Rover would soon emerge from the BMW umbrella. But Mini would remain, with the idea of refloating it. Thus in 1997 a couple of ideas were presented for its reinvention, although it should wait a bit for the resurgence.
That was until the new century entered. The long-awaited debut took place at the 2000 Paris Motor Show and in early 2001 body parts production began at the Swindon plant. Then, exactly two decades ago, on April 26, 2001, the first new generation Mini rolled off the production line at Oxford, beginning its sale in the UK on July 7, 2001.
At the beginning the range was very small. In the first year, Mini sold 24 thousand units even though it was launched at the end of the year. It was only offered with a three-door body, in One, Cooper and Cooper S versions, to which a One D version was added, with a Toyota 1.4-liter turbodiesel engine.
Today the situation is different. The Oxford plant produces the Mini 3-door, Mini 5-door and Mini Clubman, as well as the fully electric Mini Cooper SE (already announced in Chile), all together on the same production line.
The Chairman of the Board of Management of the BMW Group, Oliver Zipse, was in charge of the manufacturing at the MINI plant in Oxford from 2007 to 2008 and on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the start of production, he said: “Congratulations to all in the Oxford and Swindon MINI plants for reaching such a large manufacturing milestone. I still have very fond memories of my time at Oxford. It was a real pleasure working at the heart of the MINI brand with such committed and passionate people, almost a quarter of whom have spent 20 or more years building our cars. “
Today more than 4,500 highly skilled employees work at MINI’s Oxford and Swindon plants, including 130 apprentices. Together, this strong team ensures that around 1,000 MINIs are born every day, one every 67 seconds.
Peter Weber, general manager of the Oxford and Swindon plants since 2019, points out that “I am tremendously proud of our teams in Oxford and Swindon and the incredible work they do. Their continued commitment and passion over the past 20 years has helped strengthen Mini’s reputation around the world. ”
The Oxford and Swindon plants already have a long tradition as production centers, in fact, while in Oxford they celebrated 60 years of the origin of the compact vehicle (in 2019) the impressive figure of 10 million units manufactured since its origin was reached.
For a long time this was done quietly, but in recent years the Oxford plant has become a magnet for tourists. Meanwhile, the award-winning Mini factory tour has delighted some 26,000 fans of the brand.
But obviously the company must keep up with the times. This is how the Oxford plant took a brisk step into the future in 2020 when the MINI Cooper SE, the brand’s first fully electric model, rolled off the production line.
And the changes will not stop. On 17 March this year it was announced that the latest combustion engine model will be presented in 2025, making Mini since 2030 the first brand in the BMW Group with a full range of electric models.