So BMW, makers of the new MINI, just announced that they’ve rolled out the 1.5 millionth of the little guys. Damn, that’s a lot in a short time, and I guess that confirms that the MINI is a certifiable hit (as well as being certifiably fun to drive). What makes the MINI the car of choice for a million and a half people? Read on …
Fifty years ago, British engineer Alec Issigonis created the Mini (back when it wasn’t all caps), and with it, the whole concept of the hatchback, urban car. And as a side note, a few years after that, John Cooper, bored, stroked and massaged the Mini, thereby creating the first hot-hatch, and anybody that’s ever mashed the right-hand peddle on a GTi owes both of these guys a nod.
Anyway, what Alec Issigonis did was answer some automotive questions that should have been asked earlier (and we seem to keep asking ourselves): “What’s the most efficient packaging for a car? How can a car be best designed for urban driving?”
The answer was to pack the whole drivetrain, the engine, gearbox and diff, into one lump. Put that lump in one box at the front of the car, driving the front wheels, and have the people and cargo in their own separate box that does not have things like transmission humps and drivelines intruding into where the people sit.
As anyone who has sat in a Mini, a MINI, a VW GTi, an early 80s Ford Fiesta, a Honda Civic, or any one of dozens of hatchbacks can tell you, they are amazingly roomy inside, and take up very little road space. And since they are so small and light, they are also a total blast to drive. Ask anyone who has rallied, and they can tell you that a hot hatch is a great way to go.
So with that in mind, BMW rolling out a million and a half of the new-gen MINI isn’t all that surprising. Especially in Europe, where space is tight, and gas is knee-weakeningly pricey. MINIs are all over the place; London, Paris, Munich, Madrid and Lisbon, you see them everywhere – although not so much in Rome or Milan, where Fiat resurrected the 500 as a direct competitor to the MINI, and besides, Italians are really nationalistic about their cars.
They’ve been a certified hit here in the U.S. of A. as well. MINI dealerships are located in most major urban areas, and you see them prowling the cramped streets from NYC to The West Coast. Seeing them on I-80 in the middle of Wyoming is sort of disconcerting and humorous, but you can, apparently, use them for long distance road trips across the country if so motivated. On top of that, the super efficient gas mileage would probably be appreciated on such a trip.
So yes, BMW has produced one and a half million MINIs, but when you think about it, it’s not that surprising.
Here’s BMW’s presser:
The success story continues: MINI makes 1.5 million
* Press Release
Oxford: Just weeks after celebrating MINI\’s 50th birthday, another milestone was reached today as the 1.5 millionth car rolled off Plant Oxford\’s production line, since the launch of the new MINI in 2001.
Business Minister Ian Lucas MP, responsible for the automotive sector at the government department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and BMW Group board member Ian Robertson joined a group of Plant Oxford apprentices as the Chili red MINI Clubman cleared the end of the production line. The car is destined for a British customer.
Since production started at Oxford in 2001, MINI has become a global phenomenon, winning plaudits and awards all over the world and is now sold in more than 80 countries, with its most recent launch in Brazil.
Ian Robertson, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Sales and Marketing, said: \”This is a great day for the plant and a wonderful milestone to reach in the 50th birthday year of MINI. The very first classic Mini rolled off the production line here at this plant on 8 May 1959.
\”It was wonderful to see the passion that owners feel for MINI at the car\’s recent birthday celebrations at Silverstone, when 25,000 people from around the world joined the party. It is a privilege to be part of the heritage and future of this car.\”
Robertson added, \”This is a tough time for the car industry and no business is immune from its challenges, but MINI is an extremely resilient brand with huge customer appeal and we have seen a strengthening order bank in recent months. We will launch a number of new models in the coming years and we are optimistic for the future.\”
BMW Group has invested more than Â£380m in Plant Oxford since 2001 and a further Â£100 million in the Hams Hall and Swindon plants, which make up the MINI Production Triangle in the UK. The Group employs more than 7,000 people in the UK, and its activities account for 1 percent of the country\’s GDP. The company has invested more than Â£1 billion in the UK since 2000.
Business Minister Ian Lucas said: “The Mini has been a symbol of British design and engineering for 50 years, and I am delighted to hear that it continues to succeed today. Part of the longevity of the Mini has come from the company\’s ability to innovate – the redesign that was launched in 2001, the focus on reducing CO2, and the electric Minis that over the next year we will be seeing on the streets as part of the Government\’s Low Carbon Vehicles Demonstrator. The Government will do all it can to support the British automotive industry as it makes the necessary transition to the low carbon future.”
Recently, it was announced that BMW Group will trial an all-electric MINI in the UK – the MINI E – having won Government backing through the Technology Strategy Board and regional development agency SEEDA. BMW will lead a consortium, including Scottish and Southern Energy and academic partner Oxford Brookes University to evaluate the social, economic and practical issues of living with an electric vehicle. MINI E is already being trialled in the USA and Germany.
In the 41 years between 1959 and 2000, 5.3 million classic Minis were built, so the total when combined with new MINI volume is 6.8 million cars.