BMW is about to start work on rolling out the all-new Mini 3, Autocar has learnt. Production line training for the workers at Plant Oxford will begin next week, with assembly of very early pre-production Mini 3s – known internally as ‘kite-flyers’ – beginning shortly afterwards. The unveiling of the new model is not expected before late 2013, however.
BMW has already completed work on a new body-in-white facility for the Mini 3, which is based on BMW’s new UKL1 front-drive platform, at Oxford and is now working on the challenging logistical task of building both the new Mini and the current R56-series Mini on the same production line.
Frank Bachmann, boss of Plant Oxford, told Autocar that mixing two entirely different cars - which don’t even share an engine - was a very difficult task because of the large number of parts that needed to be brought to the production line at the right time.
Sources say that Oxford will spend the next two years building Mini 2 and Mini 3 models side-by-side, before models based on the R56 platform are completely phased out.
Bachmann also revealed that the Mini 3 production will begin at the Nedcar plant in the Netherlands from ‘the second half of 2014’. Bachmann says that Nedcar, which previously built Mitsubishi models, the first Volvo V40 and the Smart ForFour, is needed because the company expects a significant leap in Mini demand when the new model is launched.
The Mini Countryman and Paceman models will continue to be built under contract at Magna in Graz, Austria, until they are phased out in two years’ time. Magna is then likely to switch to building another BMW-brand model.
Mini sales rose to a record 328,000 in 2012, a figure that was up eight per cent on 2011. The Oxford plant is currently running for 19.5 hours per day, producing 900 cars, which equates to about one every 68 seconds.