The BMW Group today announced that the MINI COOPER will make its world debut on September 28th in Paris at the MONDIAL DE L'AUTOMOBILE 2000 international auto show. The car represents the first total design evolution since Mini's introduction in 1959. The MINI COOPER is scheduled to launch in Europe and Asia in 2001 and go on-sale in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2002.

Following in the footsteps of designer Alec Issigonis' original concept, the MINI COOPER -- despite being larger -- retains efficient and compact dimensions. The design of the new car is clearly MINI; from the styling of its "face" to the cut of its silhouette, the car cannot be mistaken for anything else. As an example taken from Issigonis' design, the wheels of the new car are as far out at the corners as possible, not only to offer the most efficient use of space, but to ensure the highest levels of handling and stability.

Importantly, the MINI COOPER will offer a fun driving experience with go-kart-like reflexes. -- the essence of Mini's sprit. At its heart is a 16 valve, 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine that puts power to the ground through the front wheels, complementing the chassis' nimble handling and agile reflexes. Production of the MINI COOPER will begin later this year at the BMW Group's state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Oxford, England.

History of Mini

Originally conceived by innovator Alec Issigonis, the Mini was intended to be the smallest possible car that would still accommodate four adults and luggage -- measuring approximately 10 feet long, 4 feet high and 4 feet wide. However, the truly brilliant solution was to employ a transverse engine, driving the front wheels via a gear box and final drive built into the sump of the engine -- a concept that had never been tried before. The Mini was launched on August 26, 1959 in response to fuel rationing resulting from the Suez crisis and quickly became one of the world's best-selling cars, with 5.3 million produced to date.

Shortly after the Mini's debut, famed race car builder, John Cooper realized the benefits of Issigonis's compact and innovative design in the realm of competitive motorsports. He began work to enhance the performance and handling of the Mini and after some persuasion achieved the approval from Issigonis to introduce the Mini Cooper in 1961. The car became an instant hit with enthusiasts in the competitive motorsport scene and remains a classic performance icon to this day.

MINI in the US

Less than a year after the first Mini rolled off the assembly line in England, the first Mini landed in the US. Initially introduced under the Austin and Morris brands, the Mini offered thrilling performance yet, everyday practicality. At a list price of $1,295 in 1960, it was a serious competitor to the $1,675 VW Beetle. With 35 horsepower and a weight of 1,300 pounds, it was an even run for a 1200cc VW in a straight line, but in corners there was no comparison. As with enthusiasts overseas, the car's handling and performance appealed to Americans who were tapping into the Mini-mania that was quickly building.

Sadly, the Mini's time in the US was shortened by the introduction of new safety and emissions regulations. In all, slightly fewer than 10,000 Minis were sold in America between 1960 and 1967 - the last year of importation. While the Mini's tenure in the US was a brief seven years, it earned many enthusiastic fans who have remained dedicated since its departure and have eagerly awaited for the announcement of the new car - a day whose time has come.