When BMW decided to divest itself of the heavily loss making Rover Group in early 2000, the new Mini project was the only thing Germans held onto. As the new decade dawned, work was well underway at Rover’s Birmingham Longbridge plant building the new Mini factory and BMW was briefing the global media that it would stick with the British car maker, despite its huge losses. Truth was, BMW was looking for a way out and by March 2000 it had decided to sell MG Rover to a venture capital company and Land Rover to Ford. It decided, though, to hang onto the Mini Project despite some misgivings. Some senior BMW figures feared the Mini would be a flash in the pan, though the success of the Audi TT made a case for it. Despite the $10,500 entry price when it was launched in the summer of 2001, the Mini was not engineered down to a price. It was built around a unique and had an expensive BMW Z axle between the rear wheels. The upmarket interior was also bold and individual. The Mini was showered the praise for its agile handling, Character and surprising comfort over long distances. Many buyers sunk considerable sums often more than double the price of a base version into high specified versions. The only other bodystyle was the popular convertible version.
A 4.1 liter engine developed by Chrysler and BMW and built powered entry level models. This engine was supercharged to 170 bhp for the Cooper version and 210 bhp for ‘Works’ Cooper models. BMW later added a relatively low power diesel model using a Toyota engine. By the time it was replaced the MK1 Mini was selling over 200,000 per year and had become s smash hit in the US market. BMW’s instinct had paid off.