Blog: Dave LeggettIt's a Mini adventure

Dave Leggett | 18 February 2005

Cast your mind back to 2000 and the unravelling of Rover Group as BMW decided to offload it.

Ford took Land Rover, to the surprise of many who assumed that BMW wanted that brand and needed access to Land Rover’s technology. Well, it would appear that BMW had already learnt more than enough to make its own SUV and selling a BMW premium SUV, rather than persevering with LR (and BMW didn’t exactly expend a lot of effort on getting to grips with LR’s problems when it was in charge) was where BMW wanted to be.

No, Ford could pay for the privilege of sorting out the underlying problems of the Solihull operation. I expect the BMW negotiating team’s smiles were pretty broad when that little deal was done.

But BMW hanging on to the Cowley plant (Oxford) for the new Mini? That was greeted with some scepticism in the industry. Could there really be sound business sense in creating a whole new small car premium brand that has retro-appeal harking back to the small, very British and very utilitarian (if trendy in the 1960s) icon of Alec Issigonnis? It seemed a tall order.

But five years later, BMW can apparently justifiably claim to have made a decent job of establishing that small car premium brand. In simple terms, it has achieved something that DaimlerChrysler has struggled to do with its troubled Smart brand.

And this week BMW moved Mini up a gear with the announcement of more investment and capacity at its Oxford plant. We can now say that BMW hit a geyser with the Mini. DaimlerChrysler is, perhaps, still searching for oil with Smart.

But the challenge for BMW presented by rolling out new Mini model variants should not be underestimated. And how do you update a highly successful retro model like the Mini itself?

UK: BMW Group invests over £100 million in Mini plant


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