Few cars can match the iconic status of the Mini Cooper. It has already established a great name in the industry. The question is, who makes Mini Coopers?
BMW bought the Mini brand in 2000. At present, it is still the current owner of the Mini. Before BMW, the Rover Group owned the iconic British brand.
After buying Rover, BMW broke up the Rover Group and sold almost all its components save for the Mini brand. Today, the Mini Cooper gets manufactured in two production plants, one in Oxford, England, and another in Born, Netherlands.
Read on to learn more about who makes Mini Coopers and the colorful history of this automotive icon.
Who Makes Mini Coopers?
Who manufactures Mini Coopers these days? The MINI was initially a British-owned car brand. Until 2000, German-owned BMW acquired it after buying out the Rover Group. This was formerly the British Leyland.
Model Name for the Austin Mini and Morris Mini
The Mini was originally just a model name, once used for the Austin Mini and the Morris Mini. Those are essentially the same car but sold under different brand names, both owned by British Leyland.
However, by 1969, Mini became its brand, with the Austin and Morris cars merging into a single entity.
Rover Group Owns the Original Mini
The original Mini enjoyed a long production run, at almost 50 years, with the Rover Group. They even introduced an “evolved” version in 1996, which was produced until 2000.
BMW Acquired the Rover Group
At the same time, after BMW acquired the Rover Group in 96, they started working on the next-generation Mini. They introduced it in 2001.
BMW Still Owns the Brand
Until today, the BMW Group still owns the brand, and they have expanded the model range. It does not only have the standard 2-door hatch. The BMW Mini line now includes a convertible, a 5-door, the Countryman crossover, and the Clubman wagon.
Where Are Mini Coopers Made
The BMW is a German company, and the R&D for the Mini is also in Munich, Germany. However, the leading manufacturers of Mini are still in England. Currently, there are only two Mini manufacturing plants in the world:
This manufacturing plant manufactures the standard Mini 3-door and 5-door, the convertible, and the Clubman.
This contractual plant makes the 3- and 5-door Mini, the convertible, and the Countryman.
Why Did They Make the Mini
Global Fuel Shortage
The original Mini was an invention that came out of necessity. Due to the global fuel shortage caused by the Suez Crisis, the sales of large cars plummeted.
Meanwhile, those of small, compact cars like the Fiat 500 have spiked. Leonard Lord, who was then the head of the British Motor Company, hated this fact. He went on to design what he called a “proper miniature car.”
Basic Design Parameters Set By Leonard Lord
Lord set a couple of basic design parameters and set out his team of designers to work. The parameters were:
- It should be able to fit in a 10’ x 4’ x 4’ crate.
- There should be enough space for four adults.
- It should use an existing engine to save on costs.
Alec Issigonis Stepped Up to the Challenge
It was the legendary designer Alec Issigonis who stepped up to the challenge. He took all the parameters Lord wanted, and he went all out to meet them. He even went all out to invent and innovate solutions for the problems he encountered.
For instance, he took the existing BMC engine then positioned the transmission inside the sump. After that, he mounted it sideways to save space.
Issigonis Tapped Alex Moulton to Design an Inexpensive Suspension System
Issigonis then contracted his friend Alex Moulton to design a compact, efficient, yet inexpensive suspension system. Moulton used rubber cones instead of the traditional steel springs to save on weight and costs.
Corner Wheels for More Interior Space
Issigonis positioned the wheels to the corners to create even more interior space. This gave the car a wide stance, making it easier to maneuver.
Sliding Windows Over Rolling Window
Issigonis also shaved down the doors and placed their hinges on the car’s exteriors. Meaning there is no room left for the typical rolling window mechanism. They opted for sliding windows instead.
Excellent Balance and More
We could not be sure if it were intentional, but the space-saving measures produced great results. The Mini had excellent balance, great forward traction, and a lightweight yet sturdy chassis. These qualities made the Mini ideal for motorsports during its time, but more on that later.
Issigonis also put a lot of his own biases into designing this iconic vehicle. The most notable is the lack of a radio. This is because Issigonis hated listening to the radio while he drove. However, he put an ashtray on because he was a chain smoker.
When Was the Mini Launched
The Mini was launched in 1959. It was then marketed as the Austin Seven and the Morris Mini-Minor; both are two-door sedans. It also launched with not-so-much fanfare in North America. This is where they were called the Austin 850 and the Morris 850.
The initial sales were quite slow, and Ford claimed that BMC was losing around £30 per car (around £750 today). Ford did not expect that much money to make in the small car market. This prompted them to build the Cortina.
However, BMC countered Ford’s claims. They said that the Mini’s cost was shared with the other car models. They also used a lot of cost-saving manufacturing methods. These include putting the door hinges outside the body and not putting much effort into hiding weld marks.
In 1960, BMC released a 2-door van, pickup, and convertible coupe models. It was then that sales started to pick up and gain momentum.
What Is the Origin of the Mini Cooper
John Cooper Recognized the Potential of Mini
The Mini Cooper existed when legendary race car driver, builder, and Issigonis’s friend, John Cooper, recognized the potential of Mini. Cooper turned the 848cc engine with a longer stroke and a twin SU carburetor. He also swapped out the old gearbox and replaced it with a closer gear ratio.
He also gave it front disc brakes, leading to the birth of the Mini Cooper. A thousand Mini Cooper units were initially commissioned for production. This is so it could meet the regulations for competing in Group 2 rally racing.
Mini Cooper S
The more powerful Mini Cooper S surprised the racing world by going toe-to-toe with bigger cars. In the Monte Carlo 63/64 rally, the Mini Cooper driven by Paddy Hopkirk became an overnight legend by grabbing the overall win.
The next year, in the hands of Timo Mäkinen, the Mini team pulled a very impressive win during a race. The weather condition during race day was so bad. This caused only 35 out of the 237 contenders to finish.
Mini Cooper’s Racing Icon Status
However, what sealed the Mini Cooper’s racing icon status was during the ’66 Monte Carlo rally, wherein it secured the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places. The people behind the wheels were Timo Mäkinen, Rauno Aaltonen, and Paddy Hopkirk.
The Mini has such a strong racing pedigree. It dominated almost all forms of racing in the day. Like Jackie Stewart, James Hunt, and Niki Lauda, many racing legends even started their racing careers driving a Mini Cooper.
Mini Cooper in Pop Culture
Golden Era for the Mini Cooper
The Mini Cooper is not just a racing icon but also a certified pop culture icon. The 1960s was the golden era for the Mini Cooper.
During the time, British celebrities are commonly seen riding them. The celebrity endorsements did help the Mini become one of the best-selling cars of all time. It also had close to the perfect design.
The Mini was a product of its time, and it could not have had better timing. It was small, inexpensive, and fuel-efficient.
Owners Use Mini to Express Their Individuality
Aside from that, it was also a fun car to drive, and its design is full of character. Mini owners used their cars to express their individuality. This gave them all sorts of crazy paint jobs and installed as many accessories as they could.
Mainstay in Many Television Shows and Movies
The Mini was also a mainstay in many television shows and movies. However, the movie that cemented the Mini’s pop icon status is the Italian Job. This is a heist movie that starred Michael Caine set in Italy.
In the third act, Caine and his crew of lovable rogues engaged in a chase with the Turin police. This was when they tried to escape with their stash of gold bullion.
The Mini had the perfect size and agility, letting it navigate through the narrow streets of Turin, Italy. The movie used 14 cars. Eight of those were just shells used for the destruction scenes.
Again, who makes Mini Cooper? Rover Group is the previous owner of the MINI Cooper. However, BMW acquired it in 2000. At present, BMW still owns the Mini Cooper.
The Last Classic Mini Cooper
The Mini Cooper enjoyed a very long production run of more than four decades. The last original Rover Mini to roll off the production line was the 7th generation Mini Cooper Sport.
During its 41-year production run, over 5 million Minis were sold worldwide. It also remained in the top 10 best-selling cars in the UK for 22 years since it first came out.
Many publications credited the Mini as the most important car built after the Model T Ford. Although this claim is arguable, that does not mean it did not significantly affect the automotive landscape.
It may not be the first FWD car that belongs to the 1929 Cord Phaeton. However, the Mini made the layout more popular.
The Mini also became a proof-of-concept on how effective front-wheel drive could be for economy cars. In addition, it also proved that rear-wheel drive was not the be-all-end-all choice for performance cars.
Until the end of its long production run, this tiny car (also known as BMC Mini, the Leyland Mini, and Rover Mini) had been under several owners.
In 1994, BMW acquired Rover, including the rights to the Mini brand. BMW sold off most of Rover’s assets back in 2000, but the company kept the Mini brand.
In 1999, BMW unveiled the “new” Mini in the Paris Auto Show and officially launched in 2001. Although the BMW Mini is considerably larger than the classic design, it is still a compact car by today’s standards.
Mini Cooper Ownership History
Normies might not notice, but it seems like the Mini brand has been under several different owners. The truth is that the Mini’s parent company just evolved a couple of times over the years.
Here’s a simplified timeline of the Mini for those just now getting interested in its history.
- 1959 – The first Mini was introduced under the Austin and Morris automotive brands. It was manufactured by The British Motor Corporation (BMC).
- 1966 – The British Motor Holdings absorbed the BMC.
- 1968 – British Motors Holdings merged with Leyland Motors to become the British Leyland corporation.
- 1969 – “Mini” became its own brand.
- 1986 – British Leyland breaks apart and sold piece-by-piece. The Rover Group acquired the rights to the Mini brand.
- 1988 – British Aerospace bought the Rover Group.
- 1994 – BMW bought the Rover Group from British Aerospace. The production of the classic-style Mini Cooper continued until 2000.
- 2001 – BMW launches the modern, re-stylized Mini Cooper.
This timeline may be confusing. However, it boils down to British Leyland owning the rights to the Mini brand for most of its production run. Only in the last 30 years did Mini change hands.
When Was the BMW MINI Launched?
The first BMW Mini went public in July 2001. This was merely a year after the classic-style Mini ceased production. The new BMW Mini was welcomed quite well by the public. It gave the iconic car a drastic redesign. However, it still retained most of the design concepts of the original.
There was one concern that people had back then. When A German company already owned Mini, many wondered if it would still be produced in Britain?
Thankfully, BMW invested in the brand, and it continues to be manufactured in Oxford, England. This is true even if there is another manufacturing plant in Born, Netherlands.
With BMW’s acquisition of the Mini brand, there also came about other model selections bearing the Mini name. Several car models with the Mini badge are now available, including a convertible and the Clubman (a 5-door sedan).
BMW Mini Cooper Backlash
When the first BMW Mini Cooper came out, people had mixed reactions. Ordinary people somewhat loved the new, modernized design of the new Mini. However, the old-school fans and purists hated it quite a lot.
Some of the reasons why purists disliked the new BMW Mini include:
Many Mini purists criticized how big the modern Mini has become. This went against the size requirement set by Leonard Lord when the BMC was brainstorming for the Mini’s original design.
2. Fuel Efficiency
Another quality of the original classic Mini that BMW somewhat deviated from is fuel economy. The last generation of the classic Mini has an impressive fuel economy, on average getting 42mpg.
The BMW Mini now has a heavier frame and a more powerful engine. With that, it also has an average fuel consumption of about 21mpg.
The reason why the Mini was born in the first place was to combat rising fuel prices. Although still having a decent fuel efficiency, the new Mini does not seem to have it as its primary focus.
The classic Mini, just like the classic Beetle, was intentionally made for the common working-class people. The 1959 Austin Mini was priced at £500 for the top-of-the-line model. This is roughly £12,300 in today’s money. The new BMW Mini retails at £20,000 for the base model.
The price increase is due to the modern conveniences and safety features. However, the Mini is no longer the everyman’s car that it used to be. The new Mini has become a status symbol for those who can afford it. This is similar to what happened to the new Volkswagen Beetle.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Many Variants of Mini Coopers Are There?
There are currently three Mini Cooper body types. These are the 3-d0or hardtop, 5-door hardtop, and 2-door convertible.
Who Makes Mini Cooper Engines?
BMW makes all the engines for the Mini Cooper. The 4-cylinder petrol engines get manufactured in BMW’s Hams Hall plant in Birmingham. On the other hand, the diesel engines are in the Steyr Plant in Austria.
What Is the Max Speed of the Mini Cooper?
The fastest production Mini Cooper is the John Cooper Works Mini Cooper GP. This car has a turbocharged 2.0L engine with a top speed of 145mph.
What Are the Common Problems of the Mini Cooper?
The biggest problem that the Mini Cooper faces is the front radiator support. Because of its low-mounting and plastic material, the radiator mounting has a chance to break. This is if you accidentally hit a curb.
Conclusion – Who Makes Mini Coopers
Currently, BMW owns the Mini car brand. The ownership started in 2000. Before BMW, the rights to the Mini name were owned by the Rover Group. After a couple of years, BMW broke up the Rover Group. It sold its assets separately, except for the Mini brand.
Today, two production plants are responsible for manufacturing the Mini Coopers. One is in Oxford, England, while the other is Born, Netherlands.
Although a German company now owns the iconic British car brand, it retains most of its original identity. Whether you own the classic models or the newer ones from BMW, you will undoubtedly feel like having good company.