The MINI Oxford Plant is the spiritual home of the brand since new MNI production started in 2001. In 2004 we visited the plant and found it full of new energy and incredible automation. While BMW has added contract production in Austria and the Netherlands and even leverages BMW production facilities in Germany, Oxford remains the largest producer of MINIs and is clearly a key part of the brand’s future. But what’s changes over the last twenty years since it went online? We went to Oxford to find out and see a hint of the future.
When we last visited the plant in 2004 it was still ramping up various aspects of production. For instance the stamping that happened offsite back then is now in a separate facility on the plant grounds. There’s also a new level of automation – especially in that stamping plant. In fact it seems almost devoid of humans as we walked through a sea of busy robots twisting and turning metal and nearly complete chassis.
The immediate take away in seeing this part of production is the precision throughout the process. BMW takes the structural design and build of its cars seriously as it had several high-profile issues in the late 90’s and early 2000s with sub-frames. Our guide explained the levels of engineering that goes into every weld and the safety checks that happen throughout the process. The result is a level of precision that wouldn’t seem out of place in an aerospace factory.
The Future is Now
One of the most interesting aspects of Oxford’s current production line-up is the fact that the plan produces both ICE and electric MINIs side by side. This clearly foretells the future of the brand as MINI looks to aggressively move to become an all electric brand.
Perhaps most interesting were the date codes I could clearly see on many components. Each component that BMW puts in their cars has a form of a date code that states the production date of the part and the range that the part is applicable in a vehicle. In other words you could clearly see when many of the core components for the current MINIs were scheduled to be end of life. That date was marked 2027 in many components were saw.
Knowing what we know about the current generation MINI we would expect that that means we’ll see some for of redesign and/or final LCI for the petrol powered F56 range. It also lines-up well with the rumored introduction of the all new electric MINI at Oxford.
Our sources are telling us are MINI’s plans to expand production of the next generation J01 electric MINI Cooper and J02 MINI Aceman to the Oxford Plant later this decade. This redistribution of production will not only help future proof the Oxford Plant but also allow BMW to avoid US tariffs on the cars paving the way for their introduction to the US market.
Up Close With the Rarest MINIs in the World
Whether it be one of the first MINIs ever produces or a recent GP, the Oxford Plant has a small MINI museum that houses one of the best collections in the world. The 30 minute guided tour is also not to be missed as it not only walks through the collection but goes into depth on the production process, the history of the plant and the plans for the future.
The trip is well worth it if you’re in the UK. It’s not only a fascinating look at the history of Mini but an inside look at the very heart of the brand.
Booking a tour is as easy to heading to MINI UK’s website and buying a £21.00 ticket.