Dr. Michael Ganal, one of the more important figures in regards to MINI from BMW’s board, introduced MINI at the recent Geneva Motorshow. Along with the introduction of the GP and the latest Traveler concept, Dr. Ganal also touched on the recent additions to the Oxford plant and how that will effect future production. You can read the entire speech below (MINI Press):

>Ladies and Gentlemen, Hello and welcome to the MINI stand.

>Driving a MINI is so much fun — and I have just had a truly unique MINI go-kart experience today — I drove the “GP MINI”. We are presenting the new “GP MINI“ for the very first time here in Geneva. It is being launched for retail across Europe in July.

>GP stands for Grand Prix. The “GP MINI“, a Cooper S model sporting the John Cooper Works Grand Prix kit, is continuing the MINI brand’s racing tradition: In 1964, more than 40 years ago, the Mini Cooper S — not at all a favourite at that time — won the overall championship at the Rally Monte Carlo. This was the beginning of the Mini’s career as an exceptional racing car. And while the Rally Monte Carlo era only lasted another four years, it laid the foundation for the legend of the victorious Mini Racer.

>By the way: At the Rallye Monte Carlo 1965, when the Mini Cooper S was on the winners’ rostrum, a mere 35 out of 237 participating cars made it across the finishing line. Three of them were Minis. Most of the others failed due to heavy snow and the challenging road conditions in the French Alps. We have always felt a strong commitment to the outstanding achievements of that Mini. This is why driving today’s MINI is not only a matter of fun. High-quality product substance and state-of-the-art safety technology to protect passengers are among our top priorities.

>The “GP MINI“ has inherited the racing genes of its famous predecessor — but it weighs less and performs better. Its 218 horsepower allow for a top speed of more than 240 km/h, and it is a sports car through and through: with its newly adapted sports chassis, an aerodynamics package especially designed for this vehicle, sports seats, a sports steering wheel and more.

>If you would like to have one, you should get your order in now: We are only going to produce 2,000 units, in a numbered edition.

>MINI has again secured itself a podium position: Last year was a record year for the brand. For the first time, we exceeded the magic mark of 200,000 vehicles sold. This is a major accomplishment, mainly in that MINI can look back on five straight years of continuous growth. Last year alone, the brand’s retail volume increased by more than eight per cent. This is exceptional for the automotive industry. And it is particularly so in the small car segment where strong fluctuations in retail volume over a vehicle’s lifecycle are very common. Usually, at the end of a vehicle’s lifecycle, retail volume is down to about fifty per cent of the original peak volume. MINI is just different.

>The unique MINI lifecycle is a clear indicator of the brand’s strength. The fundamental difference lies in the combination of a strong brand and a strong product. MINI is clearly not a retro product. It has been developed further from a longstanding automotive tradition and it is thoroughly up-to-date. “From the Original to the Original“ — this claim shows that MINI stands for stylish design as well as for the typical, unique go-kart feeling.

>In terms of retail volume, the MINI brand has become a real supporting pillar of the BMW Group: Last year, MINI accounted for 15 per cent of total group retail in the automotive segment. In Great Britain, its home market, it was almost a third. And retail volume is almost as high in markets such as Italy, Mexico and Japan.

>But these numbers do not tell the entire MINI success story — the brand’s model mix is equally amazing. And compared to the previous year, it has become even more up-scale.

>27 per cent of all MINI vehicles sold are MINI Ones. 44 per cent of our customers decide to buy a MINI Cooper.

>And an impressive 28 per cent of all MINI buyers prefer the MINI Cooper S. In Switzerland, the share of MINI Cooper S vehicles is even 40 per cent. That is a record.
The trend towards more powerful engines and more up-scale equipment is definitely continuing. In Europe, the average sales price of a MINI is almost 32,000 CHF or about 20,500 EUR. Again, our Swiss customers are above average: At close to 34 per cent, there is an extraordinary share of convertibles here. So the average sales price is about 2,000 CHF or 1,300 EUR higher than in other European countries.

>This amount is usually paid for medium-sized cars. But our customers seem to follow the motto: The more MINI, the better.

>This is proof of the fact that, when it comes to size, MINI might be a small car; but in any other respect, it is a real premium product combined with a strong, authentic brand. And that makes all the difference.

>The MINI brand’s success story is going to continue in 2006.

>As we intend to deliver even more MINI vehicles in the future, we are increasing production capacity right now. In order to carry out necessary measures, we will have to stop production for a few weeks — and this will have an impact on retail volume. Which is a pity for us — but we should not forget that the problem of undercapacity is the envy of our industry. So we expect to sell less vehicles in the months to come compared to the same period last year. But at the same time, we are gaining additional growth potential for the future thanks to a rise in production capacity.

>MINI Plant Oxford has been working to capacity for several years now without having been able to completely satisfy demand. We are currently carrying out considerable expansions at MINI Oxford as well as the component plants at Hams Hall and Swindon. In the medium term, we will have created a MINI Production Triangle with two substantial improvements:

>Production flexibility of the different MINI model variants will have risen.
And capacity will have been extended to almost 240,000 MINI vehicles a year.
So the plant expansion is going to make us both more flexible and stronger in terms of production. This will help us to satisfy the rising demand for MINI vehicles in the future.

>One of the reasons for the extension of our MINI production is the covered concept study right next to me.

>I am proud to present the MINI Concept Geneva, our homage to our hosts and to the home of the International Motor Show.

>In many details, our concept car will remind you of the Mini’s rallye era: For example, you might recognize the accent color “Racing Red” as well as the car’s white roof. The front-mounted engine hood with the additional air intake as well as the dual exhausts are a real match for the MINI Cooper S powertrain.

>Thanks to its enlarged trunk with its innovative box system, the MINI Concept Geneva offers additional loading space. The doors with their parallelogram kinematics allow for ideal access. So the MINI Concept Geneva really lives up to the claim: “As small as possible, as large as necessary.“

>The MINI Concept Geneva is based on its classic predecessors from the 1960s. At that time, the Mini Traveller and its successors were the symbols of a new, active and mobile lifestyle. These early four-seaters with increased space are the idea behind our future series model.

>This new derivative shows how much potential and modernity the unique MINI brand has to offer. This MINI is planned to go into series production within the next two to three years.

>Now please see for yourself what makes the MINI Concept Geneva so special.

>And allow me one last remark: As enthusiasm is so breathtaking at a MINI press conference — we have planned a MINI after-work party starting at 5 p.m.:

>We invite you to a have a piece of our MINI birthday cake. Mini inventor Sir Alec Issigonis would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year. So please party with us, here at the stand!

>Thank you very much.