As you’ve previously read here, BMW has announced the new 2nd generation MINI Cooper, coded the R56. I’m sure MINI fans and car enthusiasts alike are curious to find out more about BMW’s new take on the iconic little car that has charmed the hearts of generations, but do you want to know where the MINI Cooper is made? Read about the MINI’s new triangle of production here, check out my first hand report after the jump.
BMW’s new 2nd generation R56 MINI Cooper is produced in what BMW calls the MINI production triangle. This is because geographically, the three plants involved in the production of the new MINI look like the three points of a triangle on a map. The top of the triangle is the Hams Hall plant, while the two other plants are the Oxford plant on the bottom right and the Swindon plant on the bottom left – well, sort of anyway. Not really a perfect triangle.
The Ham’s Hall plant builds BMW’s straight-four petrol engines in capacities of 1.6 litres to 2.0 litres. While previously the MINI Cooper engine was sourced from a joint venture with Chrysler in Brazil, the new engine was developed through a joint venture with PSA Peugoet Citroen. It remains a 1.6 litre engine, but the S variant now gains it’s additional power through turbocharging instead of supercharging. So the Ham’s Hall plant received a 30 million pound investment to expand the production to include BMW’s new PSA JV 1.6 litre engines.
Plant Swindon is where the body pressing and sub-assembly manufacturing is done. Body pressings that are done here grew from the bonnets, doors, side panels and rear panels, to now include all the body shell sub-assembly work, of which after completion is delivered to Plant Oxford where final assembly is done. The Swindon plant makes 280 of the 350 different pressed parts for the R56 MINI Cooper.
Plant Oxford is the body shell, paint shop and final assembly plant, where the MINI Cooper is actually put together and tested. This is the plant I visited, and it looked pretty impressive to me. A mixture of robotics and hand assembly. Interestingly, the assembly management is required to come up with 4 ideas annually for the improvement of the assembly process, this ensures the plant’s production improves from year to year. For the moment, both the first generation MINI Cooper and the second generation MINI Cooper R56 are being produced at the plant on the same assembly line. When the old MINI Cooper is phased out, the old Cabriolet model will still be produced as the 2nd generation R56 MINI doesn’t have a Cabriolet yet. The plant works in 3 shifts, 20 hours a day, which means probably there are 2 hour breaks in between shifts. Shift times can be adjusted within 25% ranges of each other.
The final assembly plant is capable of producing MINI Coopers in an extremely vast amount of configurations – the possible variations are said to be in the thousands of trillions! Crazy, I know. For starters, there are already 4 body types, which are left hand drive with sunroof, left hand drive without sunroof, right hand drive with sunroof, and right hand drive without sunroof. Then you also have two engine options. Multiply all of that with all the other customisation features – 372 for interior and 319 for exterior – you’ll see how it can reach such a high number. It’s said that it’s very unlikely for two identical MINIs to roll off the production line within the same production year. MINIs are built to order, and once you’ve ordered your MINI, you can actually still change your configuration within 7 days of the day the car is expected to roll off the production line.
In total, the MINI Production Triangle employs 6,350 people, which is expected to increase to nearly 6,800 people when production is hiked to 240,000 cars a year from 200,000 cars a year – 1000 people in Hams Hall, about 4700 in Oxford and 1100 in Swindon. The location of suppliers is also cruicial, several suppliers have actually moved operations to within an hour of the plants they are supplying to, as MINI production is very time crucial – orders always exceed production capacity.
Empty bodyshell being carried around the production lines.
The machines can turn the MINI bodyshell around, facilitating an easier working environment.
White body, and black roof. Things like roof, body, and stripe colour can be fully customised by the customer.
Here, the production workers, or as MINI calls them, associates, are fixing the dashboard assembly into the car.
Looks like some wiring work.
This one’s got a blue body and a white roof.
In this phase, the entire engine which is pre-mounted on a sub-assembly inserted into the engine bay from the bottom via robotics. This is right before the engine is put in. I didn’t manage to get a clear shot of the engine actually going into the engine bay.
The MINI Cooper engine.
These are new second generation MINI parts, notice the single frame front grille instead of the previous MINI’s grille being split into two, most of it between the headlamps and a bit on the bumper, with a stirp of bumper body in between it.
Almost done! This is the first generation new MINI.
…and this is the 2nd generation one! Both new and old MINIs are assembled on the same production line.
The old cabriolet will still be on sale until the new 2nd generation MINI Cooper Cabriolet is developed.
MINIs parked, waiting for testing.
This is the new R56 MINI Cooper S, looks nice in blue with white rims.
A first gen MINI in front, with a blue 2nd gen MINI behind it. Notice the difference in the grille and bumper design? Of course, that’s not all that’s different – the new R56 is a completely new car – new chassis and new engine, with different dimensions and a slightly different shape.
This is some kind of exhaust sound test.
Looks GREAT in yellow too.
At the end of the production line when assembly is complete, the car is started and driven off to a parking area.
Finished MINIs, waiting to be started.
Hope you enjoyed the photos. After the plant visit, we watched an interesting fashion show – a blog post and photos on that coming up soon! Cheers!