This is turning out to be quite the year of achievement for MINI. Coming off of a 50th birthday bash that drew over 25,000 fans to the Silverstone racing circuit in May, this petite automotive icon has just eclipsed another benchmark when the 1.5 millionth example of the "New MINI" rolled off the production line in Oxford, England.
Ian Robertson, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Sales and Marketing, was at the historic facility to watch the Chili Red Clubman emerge from the now ultra-modern facility that also gave birth to the original MINI on May 8, 1959. That "classic" incarnation, which established new era of space-efficient packaging and fuel-efficient motoring, went on to sell 5.3 million units during its ensuing 41-year lifespan. Eclipsing that mark will be a tall order for its 21st century successor, which began product here in 2001. However, with a presence in over 80 markets and a legion of wildly enthusiastic fans, that goal is clearly possible, as Robertson noted. "This is a tough time for the automobile 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." Beyond any expansion of the all-electric MINI E side of the family, the new faces Roberts is referring to include both a crossover and a possible "speedster" variant of the conventional package.
The U.S. is currently the MINI's largest single market, where it racked up 4,105 unit sales in June. Based on that popularity and its track record of consistently remaining an overachiever even in these dismal sales times, MINI USA recently announced plans to expand its dealer network here from 83 to 100 outlets during the next 18 months.