Customers across Europe are waiting up to six months for delivery, especially on the convertible which accounts for just 25% of production, and it’s worse in the UK where sales are expected to hit 42,000 this year.
“All the countries want more cars, but I can’t see times reducing – in fact they will probably increase because demand is still going up,” says Anton Heiss, managing director at the Oxford Mini plant.
Last year Oxford produced 175,000 Minis and this year 15,000 more thanks to an increase in weekly working hours from 125 to above 130 on seven-day work patterns.
Next year, with a few more improvements in efficiency, many of which are suggested by staff – their bonus is based on every employee providing three ideas a year, which has seen the plant lop £10m off costs over the past three years – Heiss is confident of hitting 200,000. That’s the maximum, however, without further expansion in the premises.
BMW will take a decision next year based on an assessment into how much more Mini sales will expand, and whether that is sustainable growth. “That decision will look ahead for the next six or seven years of the Mini’s life,” says Heiss. “The main problem is the paint shop and the cost of investment here. Space is not an issue.”
He says another plant is an option in the next 10 years, particularly if production needs to hit 300,000 – a distinct possibility given plans to add more Mini derivatives in the Mark II’s lifetime.
The next generation Mini will be launched in 2007, and will be a total redesign. The engine joint venture with DaimlerChrysler ends that year and the new PSA engine will require complete reconfiguration of the engine bay.