A two-litre I4 petrol engine destined for a new three-door version of the recently updated BMW 1 Series was the one millionth engine produced at the automaker’s Hams Hall plant since production started in the West Midlands, England, factory in January 2001.

The plant is the company’s ‘centre of competence’ for four-cylinder engine production. It has built BMW engines since the start of production and recently added a new line of smaller engines, developed jointly with PSA Peugeot-Citroen, for the redesigned Mini hatchback range.

Within hours of coming off the assembly line, the built-to-order 1-series engine was shipped to the BMW assembly plant in Leipzig, Germany, one of six assembly plants in five different countries to which the UK plant supplies engines just-in-sequence.

“Following last year’s record output of 217,000 engines, annual production this year is scheduled to go well above 300,000 engines,” said Robert Bolam, who took over as plant director at the beginning of the year.

So far, 925,000 engines have been built for BMW brand vehicles built at plants in Germany, Austria, South Africa and the US. The remaining 75,000 engines have been assembled since September last year for the updated Mini built at Oxford, about 100 miles south.

The Mini’s Plant Oxford has now become the biggest single customer for Hams Hall engines and annual capacity there is planned to reach 240,000 units in the medium term.

In 2001, its first year of production, Hams Hall, following an initial investment of GBP400m and with a workforce of 450, built 70,000 engines. In 2007, production will easily exceed 300,000 engines with a workforce that now numbers just over 1,000. During the past six months alone, 250 new workers have been taken on to cope with increasing volume requirements resulting from the launch of the second-generation Mini.