World's Third-Oldest Car Plant At 100 Years: MINIs Still Rolling Off Line Page 2

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Morris Motors plant at Cowley (now MINI Plant Oxford) - Morris Oxford & Minor quality inspection

Morris Motors plant at Cowley (now MINI Plant Oxford) - Morris Oxford & Minor quality inspection

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Honda survives, of course, as do Jaguar and Land Rover--united as a single entity and sold by Ford to India's Tata Motors.

Of the rest, only MINI and the Chinese-owned MG survive. All the rest of those historic British brands are now gone.

Today and tomorrow

Cowley itself, or MINI Plant Oxford as BMW would have it, is in fine shape.

There's little left of the structures where that first Bull-Nose Morris was built. Instead, BMW has invested hundreds of millions of pounds into the plant to make it a fully modern facility.

And in fact, as local resident Andrew Murray notes, "The current BMW ex-Rover/Honda plant is on the site of the Pressed Steel body plant, which hadn't been there 100 years."

"Lord Nuffield's plant was on the other side of the dual carriageway," he explains, "and was flattened and sold in the 1980s by the Arlington Securities property arm of British Aerospace" when it owned the Rover Group from 1988 to 1994, before BAe sold it to BMW.

So you'll see few of the ghosts of Morrises of the past in the current plant, although BMW has resurrected a set of historic photos from the site's 100-year history.

Germans and Britons

And at least a few of the BMW employees making MINIs today are the sons and daughters--or grandsons and granddaughters--of earlier assembly-line workers.

Germany today, of course, has a thriving car industry, whereas the largest British-owned car company today is Morgan.

But the future of the former Morris Motors site at Cowley looks secure, with BMW planning to build the third-generation "new MINI" there starting in 2015 or so.

If current production rates continue, by 2020 or 2022, the plant could have built half as many cars since 2001 as it did in its first 87 years.

So while MINI is no longer owned by the British, it retains its national identity--and most of them are built by Britons.

At least that's something, eh?

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