BMW puts Mini production line into top gear

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Production of the new Mini at BMW's Oxford manufacturing plant is to be increased by 20 per cent as a result of the runaway sales success of the car.

BMW announced yesterday that output from the factory will rise to about 120,000 this year. The company also confirmed that it would launch a diesel version of the Mini next year using an engine supplied by Toyota.

Since production began in April last year the Oxford plant has produced 100,000 Minis. In the past six months, BMW has taken on an extra 700 staff, raising the workforce at the Oxford plant to 4,500. However, the increase in production this year will be achieved without employing more staff or adding extra shifts.

Worldwide sales of the Mini in the first four months of the year reached 39,000, of which the UK market accounted for a third. Demand for the car will receive a further boost with the launch next month of the top-of-the-range Cooper S model in the UK. The Cooper S went on sale in Japan and the United States in March.

The success of the Mini helped lift BMW's sales by 14 per cent to €10.8bn (£6.7bn) in the first quarter. In the first four months of the year BMW sold a total of 355,303 cars – a 19 per cent increase on the same period last year.

The new 1.4 litre diesel engine will be supplied from Toyota's Kamigo plant in Japan. BMW expects to sell between 10,000 and 20,000 diesel versions of the Mini each year.

Total investment in the plant now stands at £280m and BMW could stretch production to about 130,000 cars without further major expenditure. But a substantial increase in production beyond that would require heavy additional investment, notably in extra paint shop facilities.