BMW has now produced 1.5 million Minis since it reinvented Britain's favourite runabout in 2001. The 1.5 millionth car, a Clubman estate model, was driven off the production line yesterday at the company's Oxford assembly plant

Nobody quite expected the Mini to become such a big seller and during the good years the factory has operated close to its limit. BMW has been keeping the car fresh with regular updates and new variants - an electric version and a Mini SUV are planned, although the latter is expected to be produced abroad.

Although BMW was widely perceived to have pulled out of the UK after abandoning Rover and selling Land Rover to Ford in 2000, the success of the Mini means that the company maintains substantial operations here; beside the Oxford plant, the company has an engine factory at Hams Hall near Birmingham and a body plant at Swindon.

But despite its success, the BMW Mini still has a long way to go before it can match the popularity of the 1959 original; that bowed out in 2000 after 5.3 million units had been produced.

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