Here's another story that I found that I can find here anywhere:
Next Mini may get a flexible platform
Minivan, roadster could be built on new architecture
OXFORD, England -- Now into its fourth year, the new Mini has far exceeded BMW's expectations and strained capacity at BMW's factory here to meet demand.
Anton Heiss, managing director of BMW Oxford, says a decision will probably be made next year on how to expand production beyond the estimated 180,000 units that will be built this year. The plant was designed for about 125,000 units annually.
"If you look at the successor to the current Mini, we have to look at capacity," says Heiss, managing director of BMW Manufacturing Ltd. "We have to investigate very seriously what we want for the future of the Mini."
BMW will not expand beyond the current coupe and cabriolet versions of the Mini during the current generation, Heiss says. For the next generation, BMW is working on a flexible platform that could accommodate more variants, possibly including a station wagon, minivan and a two-seat roadster.
Heiss predicts 20 percent of current-generation volume will be the cabriolet, which has just been introduced in Europe.
Paint shop obstacle
The Mini's lifecycle will be six or seven years. The car was launched in 2001 after BMW moved the assembly line to Oxford from Longbridge, which was intended as the manufacturing site before BMW sold Rover Group.
The paint shop at Oxford is the biggest obstacle to increasing speed of production. Unlike the paint shops at BMW factories in Munich and Regensburg, Germany, the Oxford paint shop has only one line.
Oxford is producing 30-35 cars per hour, compared with 50 at both Munich and Regensburg.
BMW has spent E1.2 million to increase capacity of the paint shop at Oxford. The reason for that expansion was because of unexpectedly high demand for the Cooper versions of the Mini, which have a "contrast roof" painted a different color than the body and require two passes through the paint shop. The Cooper outsells the Mini One at a rate of about three to one.
"Increasing capacity for the paint shop is not so cheap," says Heiss. "We have to investigate very seriously what we want for the future of Mini."
Mini US sales to pass UK
One of the main reasons the Mini has been so successful is its surprise reception in the US market, where it is one of the smallest cars on sale.
"At the beginning, we thought this was just a European car," says Heiss. But the US is already the second largest Mini market and will soon surpass the UK.
BMW expects the Mini to follow the pattern of many cars, declining in sales as its cycle nears an end.
But volumes could increase with the additional body styles BMW envisions for the next generation.
"Adding those in we could be talking about a quarter million units," says Nigel Griffiths, auto analyst for Global Insight.
"If you do a very different body style on the hybrid version, you would need bigger volume on that to amortize the investment. You would need 250,000-300,000 units."
The Mini continues to perform well in the marketplace.
"Right now they're getting good money on the options," says Griffiths. "The prices are solid. The residual values are rock solid, and they're getting good option content on it."
In the UK, the leading Mini market, the average customer spends about £2000 (E3,000) on options. The chances are one in 50,000 that two Minis are identical.