Mini Cars are a British automotive company that is owned currently by the BMW group. They produce a lineup of smaller vehicles. Originally, the company was owned by the British Motor Corporation. As of April 2013, the new managing director has been Peter Schwarzenbauer. He took over for Jochen Goller.
Some of their most notable vehicles include the Morris Mini-Minor, the Countryman, Austin Seven, 1275 GT, Clubman and the Moke. If the vehicle is a performance model, it adds the name Cooper. This is done as part of a partnership between the company and John Cooper, the racing legend.
A Brief Overview Of Mini History
The first Mini two-door vehicle was produced as part of the British Motor Corporation (BMC) in 1959. It was a 1960s icon with the front-wheel-drive system that saved space. This new design allowed for 80% more room in the floorplan to accommodate luggage and passengers.
At the time, it was considered a British version of the German VW Beetle. With that said, it was quite popular in North America. To prove that, in 1999, Mini cars won the title of being the second most influential car of the 20th century. Obviously, first place was the Ford Model T.
Mini cars featured a two-door car design that was distinctive and unique at the time. BMC used designer Sir Alec Issigonis for the creation. Mini cars were manufactured in England at the Cowley and Longbridge plants. There were also plants added later in Sydney, Australia, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Chile, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, Uruguay, South Africa, and Portugal
During the production of the Mini Mark I, there was three major updates performed. They were the Mark II, then the Clubman, and finally a Mark III. From these came variations that included a van, pickup truck, estate car and the famous Mini Moke. The Moke was a jeep-like buggy while the Cooper offered a sportier version that succeeded heavily as rally cars.
Starting with the 1990s, the BMW company began looking to broaden their automotive range. They wanted to add more compact cars, plus some SUVs as well. This lead to a few concept vehicles in the early 1990s. The first prototypes were the Z13 and E1. They were powered by an 1100cc BMW motorbike engine or an electric motor instead.
In 1994, BMW took over the Rover Group which was part of British Aerospace. That company owned Mini and a few other brands. BMW was insistent that their compact Mini cars needed to feature some of the BMW characteristics. This included rear-wheel-drive. Mini cars didn’t view it the same.
BMW saw a chance to get heavily into the premium compact car segment while still offering a competitive price. This lead to the company developing the mid-range Mini and premium line of BMW 1 Series.
During the same time, Rover worked on building a successor to the company original Mini cars. The first concept created was the ACV30. It was showcased during the Monte Carlo Rally of 1997 and the name meant Anniversary Concept Vehicle plus 30 for the number of years since Mini cars won during the first Monte Carlo Rally. The ACV30 was a two-door coupe that was powered with a rear-mounted MG F engine.
Not long after that, Rover created another concept vehicle. It was actually a pair called Spiritual plus Spiritual Too. They were considered a realistic attempt at creating the modern Mini cars, but they coincided with the creation of BMW’s project.
Modern Times with BMW
In 1998, production Mini cars were created by BMW. To increase the design aspect, they held 15 design studies. Five of their designs were from BMW Germany, with another five coming from BMW Designworks in California. Finally, there were four from the Rover company and another one from an Italian studio.
The winning design came from BMW Designworks. It was designed by Frank Stephenson, an American designer. He penned the Mini One R50 plus the Mini Cooper. He also led the team in Munich to develop the E50. This was part of parallel development occurring in England. This car was created for city life and fit nicely into the plan from BMW to develop a couple of compact vehicles.
The last two-door Mini and the final Mark VII Mini were both produced in 2000. The company also built a Cooper Sport in red at its Longbridge plant. Lulu, a pop singer, drove the car directly off the production line and it’s now housed inside the Heritage Motor Centre located in Gaydon. Another vehicle on display there is the first production model of the Mini Mark I.
In July 2001, the company released a new Mini Hatchback with hardtop. It became an immediate success as far as sales. In 2005, the company invested over $1 billion into Oxford’s Mini cars plant. This created an additional 200 jobs and increased output by 20%.
As part of the 2011 North American International Auto Show, BMW said it would extend the Mini cars line. This included a sports crossover line featuring two-doors. It was to be based off the Mini Paceman, which was a concept vehicle. Production began in 2011. The company also invested an additional $6 billion over three years to expand the Mini cars range to a total of seven models.
Alternative Propulsion Methods
In 2000 and again in 2001, the company demonstrated its hydrogen-powered internal combustion technology. These vehicles were different than the other electric-motor concepts because it featured a cylinder-based internal combustion engine instead.
There was also an all-electric model used at the British Embassy located in Mexico. It featured about 440 pounds of lithium-ion batteries. Three of these vehicles were also made for The Italian Job, a 2003 movie.
In addition, PML Flightlink created the Mini QED. This was a prototype hybrid conversion that replaced the existing drivetrain with a new electric motor capable of producing 160 horsepower.
In 2018, the company released the Mini Cooper S E Countryman All 4. It had the most advanced technology of its time with a world-renowned TwinPower turbo engine powered by electric. The vehicle also showcased the eALL4 all-wheel-drive capability.
The company also planned to release an electric motor by 2019. The Mini E Set was discussed in further detail during the 2018 New York Auto Show.
Safety and Crash Ratings
Many people wonder if Mini cars are safe. That’s because it’s easy to see a Volvo or a bigger SUV as safe just because of its size. MINIs aren’t typically considered safe by the general public just because they are smaller. However, it’s important to note that the 2019 Mini Cooper was rated an IIHS Top Safety Pick. That blows the myth out of the water that smaller cars like the Mini are not safe.
This model scored ‘Good’ in all aspects of Crashworthiness, ‘Acceptable’ on Headlights and ‘Marginal’ on Latch. This is bigger news than most people think because it destroys the stigma that small vehicles are dangerous. Many people even refer to cars like this as deathtraps, assuming because they are small, they won’t hold up in a crash. What they forget is that innovative safety technology has come a long way; enough to protect someone in a Mini car during a collision.
Mini cars offer numerous safety features to protect you and your family. First, they are designed with an ultra-rigid body. This strong frame doesn’t just reduce body torque, but it also allows the suspension to offer super-tight handling. This flex-free frame also reduces cabin noise, vibration, rattles and squeaks.
The cabin also features up to eight airbags located throughout the car. There are front, ceiling-mounted, knee, side-curtain and side-impact airbags that monitor collision carefully. If need be, they even remain inflated to keep passengers safe from any shattered glass.
The Active Brake System readies itself when your foot leaves the gas quickly. They also dry themselves when the weather is wet and work against any erratic driving. The Dynamic Stability Control automatically applies engine power or brake power depending on the circumstance. The vehicle’s Head-Up Display puts all the important information where the driver can see it easily without taking their eyes off the road.
With the car’s Vehicle Cornering Brake Control, the pressure is applied to all four wheels when tackling a tight corner. In addition, the Adaptive Cruise Control system helps the vehicle to maintain a safe distance from cars in front of it. Mini cars also have available Crash Sensor Systems, Breakaway Engines in the event of a collision, a Rollover Protection Bar, and Engine Immobilizer.
While most vehicles suffer from recalls, Mini cars seem to have them on a smaller scale. In 2012, 89,000 Mini Cooper vehicles were recalled because of a fire risk. According to BMW, the circuit board that was mounted on a water pump responsible for cooling the turbocharger could malfunction and potentially overheat. If left unrepaired, it was possible to experience smoldering, pump failures, and fire. There were 81 reported cases with four that ended in a burned engine compartment.
In 2015, BMW was fined up to $40 million in relation to a recall. The company was accused of responding late to a failed side-impact crash standard recall. They admitted fault and said they violated laws by not informing NHTSA of the possible recall within a five-day window, filing data late, and not notifying owners quickly enough.
BMW was ordered to pay a $10 million fine with an additional $10 million for the following two years. The money over the two years was used to pay auditors, develop new analytics software, submit recall reports monthly, and train the dealers not to sell any recalled cars. That came from an NHTSA employee purchasing one after a recall. If BMW was to violate the order, they were ordered to pay an additional $20 million.
Consumer Satisfaction Reports & Dependability Ratings
In 2017, Consumer Reports ranked MINI 11th on the Car Brands Ranked by Customer Satisfaction Report. That left it with a 73 out of 100 score on Owner Satisfaction which gave it a five-spot jump from the previous year.
J.D. Power also evaluated Mini cars and offering the brand a three out of five for ‘Quality Overall, ‘ four out of five for, ‘Performance & Design Overall,’ and additional three out of five for ‘Dependability.’
When looking at the dependability of the Mini cars brand, you’ll see that they rank higher than many vehicles out there. With that said, they do have their own issues that buyer swill want to watch for. Most their engines are good, but at times they need timing chain tensioning or replacement hydraulic tappets. It’s also possible to experience a lack of oil or leak in the gearbox. If buying a used Mini car, you want to especially look for leaks. The older models were susceptible to water leaks that could lead to electrical damage if they aren’t repaired.
Mini Cars Awards
While Mini Cars have received numerous awards throughout the years, one of the most prominent was the “Car of the Century” from Autocar magazine in 1995. They also took home the “North American Car of the Year” award in 2003.
Here’s a listing of some of the newest and most prestigious awards of recent years.
- Winner of J.D. Power “Highest Ranked Compact Sporty Car in Initial Quality” in 2017.
- Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS in 2016.
- “Best Social Performance” from the Automotive Science Group in 2015.
- “Best All-Around Performance” from the Automotive Science Group in 2015.
- “10 Coolest New Cars Under $25,000” from KBB in 2014.
- “Highest in Sales Satisfaction Among Mass Market Brands” from J.D. Power in 2013.
- “Intellichoice Best Overall Vehicle of the Year in the Convertible Class” from Motor Trend in 2013.
Mini Cars World Records
MINI cars have won numerous world records throughout the years. In 2009, they held the largest parade of their vehicles. This consisted of 1,450 Mini cars organized by the London & Surrey Mini Owners Club. It featured a two-mile-long course. In 2017, they attempted to break this record but fell short by 122 cars.
In 2014, 27 people crammed into a Mini in London. This was done by Dani and the mini-skirts to break a world record. Then, in 2015, a Mini Cooper driven by Alastair Moffatt set the record for the Tightest Reverse Parallel Parking. He slid into a tight spot leaving just 13.385-inches inches of space between the other two cars.
Then, in 2016, a Chinese driver Han Yue drove a Mini Cooper S around the Nürburgring Nordschleife on two wheels. The lap time was 45 minutes for the 13-mile lap, which is far slower than typical times, but still made him a Guinness World Record holder. The driver faced many issues along the run. First, one of the solid-rubber tires began to vibrate unless he slowed to 13 mph. Then, at about 3.7-miles in, the driver’s shoulder started to hurt him.
Snapshot of the Company
Prior to BMW ownership of the company, the Mini was created in Oxfordshire and Birmingham. When BMW took over, they redeveloped the Oxford plant to produce a newer factory. Since 2006, all the Mini petrol engines are built at Plant Hams Hall. Over at Plant Oxford, the paint, assembly, and body shell production are completed. Plant Swindon produces sub-assemblies and body pressings. 60% off all the components comes from the UK. The Countryman was the first to be assembled outside the UK, in Austria.
Plant Oxford employees 4,000 people who produce a maximum of 800 cars per day. The Cowley body shop uses 429 robots that assemble 425 body panels. The final assembly occurs at Cowley with the fitting of 2,400 components.
The BMW Headquarters is found in Munich, Germany. It’s been there since 1973. MINI USA Corporate Headquarters are also found within the BMW of North America building. This is located 300 Chestnut Ridge Road in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.
Mini cars sales equaled $533.55 million in 2017. The company reported 47,105 vehicles sold which was a 9.5% decrease over the 2016 number of 52,030.
In total, there’ve been about 5.3 million two-door Mini cars sold, making it one of the most loved British cars ever. There are thousands of early models still on the road and they are now considered to be a collector’s item.
MINI is owned by BMW, which stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke. BMW was originally founded as an aircraft engine company in 1916. They expanded their production into motorcycles and then, eventually cars. Today, they own the MINI brand as well as Rolls-Royce.
The logo for Mini cars is much like the car itself; small. The simple design features the brand name enclosed in a circle. Even though it is simple, many customers have come to know what it stands for. Today, it’s considered one of the top car logos in the automotive world.
Perhaps the most well-known use of Mini cars was through the screen character, Mr. Bean. In the pilot episode of his show, he drove the 1969 Morris Mini MK II. For the rest of this time on screen, he drove the 1977 Mini MK IV in a yellow and black color.
When the post-2000 vehicle was being produced, the company looked for a way to approach marketing from a viral standpoint. To create some levity, owners of a Mini convertible were asked to sign a new contract that ensured they would put the top down 90% of the time they drove. Then, the company set up a hotline (1-888-DONOTCLOSE) to report any driver that had their roof up. When the consumer reached the recorded message, it prompted them to give the offender a wedgie.
Another popular Hollywood appearance for the British MINI was in the 1969 movie, The Italian Job. Then, in 2003, when the film was remade, there were three vehicles shown. These included the Cooper S Hatch R53 in Chili Red plus the Cooper Hatch R53 in Electric Blue and another in Pepper White.
Mini Cooper History – The Legend Of John Cooper
Mini cars have had their place in motorsport history. John Cooper was born in 1923 in Surrey. He’s respected as one of the most notable celebrities to participate in international motorsports ever. In 1946, he and his father created the Cooper Car Company. Their construction began with cars for Formula 3 racing, but later for Formula 1 as well.
They went on to win the World Formula 1 Championship in 1950 and 1960. It was the first time in motorsport history that a mid-mounted engine won the race. Soon after, all Formula 1 cars began to use a mid-mounted engine.
In the 1960 Monte Carlo Rally, Cooper wanted a GT model built from the Mini. BMC made a series of about 1,000 of these cars that offered 55 horsepower and a top speed of 80 mph. The Mini Cooper S showed up in headlines in 1962 regarding the Monte Carlo races. That’s because Rauno Aaltonen sat behind the wheel and propelled ahead of all the more powerful vehicles on the track. At the very end, however, he judged the bend wrong and rolled the vehicle.
In the 1963/1964 winter rally, the Cooper S oozed with power. This was when Paddy Hopkirk took home first place in the Monte Carlo Rally. It propelled Mini cars to stardom in the motorsports world overnight.
Just a couple years later, the Mini Cooper S took first, second, and third place. However, they were then disqualified for not using the appropriate headlamps. Despite this failure, the public loved the cars and their popularity continued to grow. They were even hailed the “Three Musketeers” by fans. The next year, Rauno Aaltonen took third place overall in the Monte Carlo Rally as redemption.
Other Racing Ventures
Mini cars weren’t just successful with rally racing, but they succeeded at road circuit racing as well. In the 1960s, they took home many wins and became the most beloved car of the decade.
There are also many racing careers that started because of Mini cars. Nikolaus Andreas Lauda was an Austrian driver who entered his first hill-climb in Linz, Austria in April 1968. After a second-place win, he went on to score a racing victory again two weeks after. This led him to take home the Formula 1 World Championship three times. Other greats like James Hunt, John Surtees, Jackie Stewart, and Graham Hill also went on to begin their racing careers in Mini cars.
John Cooper’s special configuration also went on to skyrocket sales from 1961 through 1971. That’s how the name Cooper became synonymous with the passionate driving of a Mini.
There are several adventures available for Mini car enthusiasts. The first is at the MINI plant in Oxford. Visitors experience production up close and personal. The tours are free and guided by experts.
There’s also an exhibition of Mini cars at the BMW Museum in Munich, Germany. While the majority of the museum is dedicated to BMW vehicles, there are plenty of spots for Mini fans to enjoy. At the BMW Welt, users receive an exhilarating and authentic MINI experience. The rooms inside are spacious and bright offering up clear design that sparks emotion.
They have all the current models on display from the Clubman to the John Cooper models. These are spread out over the 8600 square-foot area. There’s even a modern workshop atmosphere to see the Cooper design up close. There’s also a racing car simulator on-site to test out your driving abilities.
Mini Cars Finance
All financing is offered in-house through MINI. They provide the standard line of packages for leasing or buying vehicles. They also have a U.S. MINI Diplomatic Sales Program that offers special pricing for eligible diplomats, ambassadors, and members of international organizations.
There’s also a College Grad Program. This offers any recent graduate with $500 off their new or Certified Pre-Owned MINI car. USAA members also receive a discount of up to $1,000 off a new vehicle.
For customers who require some mobility upgrades to their vehicles, there’s the MINI Mobility Program. Upon purchasing a new vehicle, customers that need equipment may receive a one-time reimbursement of up to $2,500.
For customers who just can’t express their Mini style enough, the company even offers MINI motoring rewards. It’s a Visa card with no annual fee, a low APR and their exact MINI car pictured on the front of their card.
There are also several protection plans available for the vehicles. The most prominent is the Mini Extended Motorer Protection. It offers coverage for new, used or Certified Pre-Owned vehicles on top of the factory warranty. It extends the protection for another seven years or 100,000 miles. Other protection plans include their Lease Protection, Gap Protection, and Dent ‘N Ding. In addition, they offer Tire and Wheel Protection, Windshield Protection, and Key Protection plans.
There are about 100 MINI dealerships located throughout the United States. The majority of them are near densely populated urban areas. While there aren’t many awards specifically given to Mini dealers, there are still some things that set them apart from the competition.
As far as their service goes, they only employ highly trained MINI certified techs that understand the ins and outs of the vehicle. The dealership also offers lots of MINI gear for enthusiasts. This includes roof racks, sport stripes, mirror caps, tuning kits, organizers, and mats. It’s a great place to grab a unique gift idea for a loved one.
5 Interesting Facts about Mini Cars
1 – Passengers are able to use 80% of the space inside the cars. That’s because of its unique design. No wonder four passengers are able to fit inside one of these tiny cars.
2 – The first generation remained unchanged for over forty years. The last year of production was 2000, but in total, there were 5,500,000 of them produced.
3 – Originally, they featured sliding windows and free storage space in the pockets located within their hollow doors. Alec Issigonis created the storage pockets to fit a bottle of Gordon’s Gin perfectly.
4 – MINI found themselves changing their name frequently. This was because of all the different owners throughout the years. That’s why it’s possible to talk about the Rover MINI, Morris MINI, or even the Austin MINI.
5 – At the 2012 London Olympics, the remote-controlled Coopers were the hit of the party. They carried javelins, discuses, hammers and other equipment on the field. They also created quite the distraction.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much are Mini Cars? Beginning prices seem to start right around $25,000 for their lowest base model. An average price tends to end up somewhere around $40,000.
Who Manufactures Mini Cooper Cars? The BMW Group has been the owner of MINI cars since 2000. Prior to that, the Rover Group retained the Mini brand.
Are Mini Coopers Sports Cars? With their motorsport history, it’s no wonder that Mini Coopers are designed to be sports cars. They are well-known for offering nimble handling, sturdy assembly, and exciting styling.
Where are Mini Coopers Made? The Mini Coupe, Roadster, Clubman and Hatch/Hardtop are assembled in BMW’s Plant Oxford located in Cowley, England. The Countryman and Convertible are put together at VDL Nedcar located in Born, Netherlands. Until 2016, the Paceman had its assembly home in Austria.