Iconic British small car Mini first joined the BMW Group portfolio in 1994 following the German company's ill-fated acquisition of struggling Rover Group. However the current car is almost entirely a BMW creation - the first of the new designs did not go into full production until a year after BMW had sold off the rest of Rover. The redesigned automobile, still manufactured in the UK, mainly at Cowley and Swindon, made its debut in Europe in 2001 and arrived in the Americas and Asia Pacific region in 2002. It marked an important new development for BMW, giving the group what was then the first small car in its portfolio. It proved a remarkable success, performing well ahead of initial expectations. Sales grew consistently between 2001 and 2005, peaking at almost 200,430 vehicles before falling back in 2006 as a result of a production shortfall caused by rebuilding works at Mini's UK factory. That was a preparation for the freshened second generation design launched towards the end of that year. Sales have continued to rise since then, breaking the 300k level for the first time in 2012 and reaching a new high in 2017 of almost 372k cars. The figure for 2018 slipped back slightly to 362k, just inside the Top 50 auto brands globally. There are four models in all, with the main Hatch supported by a convertible version, the extended length Clubman and Countryman SUV crossover. The Mini John Cooper Works sub-brand is a range of high-performance, racing versions of standard models. The US is Mini's single biggest market, followed by the UK. Some way behind is Germany, followed by Japan, France and Spain. Peter Schwarzenbauer is BMW Group board member with responsibility for Mini, as well as Rolls-Royce and BMW Motorrad. Bernd Koerber is head of Mini. The Mini was originally conceived in the mid-1950s as a British equivalent to the Volkswagen, a "people's car" which would appeal to the hearts and pockets of ordinary people. The project was initiated by what was then the British Motor Corporation and the first cars went on sale in 1959. During the 1960s, the Mini became one of the most widely recognised symbols of the new "swinging" London. Popularised by actors and fashion models, its status was greatly enhanced in 1969 by a starring role in comedy crime movie The Italian Job.
Capsule checked 17th April 2019
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