Mini miracle planned by BMW at Cowley

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The Independent Online

Following the runaway success of the new Mini, BMW is looking at expanding capacity at its plant in Cowley, Oxford.

A further 100 employees have been recruited this month, with the aim of maximising the use of the current facilities, and increasing production through flexible working.

"If demand continues to grow at the current rate, we will have to expand further," said a BMW spokesman.

Demand in the key US market for the signature British car is exceeding all expectations. Waiting times for new Minis in North America extend to several months.

The Cowley plant was built to make 100,000 cars a year. So far this year, 120,000 Minis have been sold, although production was interrupted in August by the launch of new soft-top convertible models and facelifts to the existing range. Despite this, BMW confidently expects to sell far more Minis than the 174,000 achieved last year.

"There has been a further improvement in efficiency this year and we expect this to continue after new agreements on flexible working with the unions," said the spokesman.

The 500,000th new Mini off the production line was marked last month with the launch of the 170 horsepower Mini Cooper S Cabrio. Between 1959 and 2000, over 5.3 million of the original, Issigonis-designed Minis left the works in Cowley.

The Mini is not the only British motoring icon flourishing under German ownership. Over 400 Rolls-Royce Phantoms have been sold so far this year, and BMW expects to reach 1,000 by the year-end.

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