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  • In 2002, one of the most influential cars in

  • automotive history made a triumphant return to

  • the United States.

  • But less than two decades later, many in the car

  • world are asking what many is still doing here.

  • The tiny English car gave the world a

  • revolutionary design that boosted the British car

  • industry and helped consumers comfortably save

  • fuel during a crippling fuel crisis.

  • It also became a global phenomenon.

  • It was made even more famous by Michael Caine in

  • the 1969 film The Italian Job, and again by a

  • remake of the film in 2003.

  • The many left the United States in the 1960s when

  • it couldn't keep up with changes to emissions

  • regulations. It's returned to America under the

  • stewardship of German automotive powerhouse BMW

  • brought fanfare and high hopes.

  • But over the years, the mini brand has

  • increasingly struggled in the U.S.

  • as buyers in this country turn away from small

  • cars and toward SUV fees in order to survive.

  • Many is relying ever more on larger crossover

  • like vehicles that are very different from the

  • efficient and compact cars.

  • Its name suggests.

  • The Mini first debuted on August 26, 1959.

  • It was the creation of Sir Alec, it's a Ghana's

  • chief engineer for the recently formed British

  • Motor Company. A new baby in a famous family and

  • important because it's so small.

  • The British Motor Corporation's many minor BMC

  • had been looking for a small, very small vehicle

  • capable of fitting for adults that could compete

  • with the micro cars developed largely by German

  • auto companies. Small cars were immensely popular

  • at the time, due in part to the Suez Crisis,

  • which had sent fuel prices skyrocketing.

  • But creating a tiny car that can still

  • comfortably fit for grown humans is pretty

  • difficult. Its eagerness and colleagues pulled a

  • few tricks that allowed them to have it both

  • ways. They shrunk the car's wheels and pushed

  • them out to the corners of the frame.

  • They turned the engine sideways.

  • The gearbox was stacked below the engine in the

  • oil pan. This highly efficient design gave the

  • tiny car a spacious interior.

  • To get the most space out of the four foot wide,

  • four foot high, 10 foot long car, the doors were

  • made so thin that window cranks would not fit, so

  • sliding windows were installed.

  • The wheels were a mere 10 inches in diameter.

  • Even the door hinges were moved outside the car

  • to save space.

  • It also gave the vehicle excellent, handling the

  • extreme positions of the wheels.

  • Gave the mini a wide stable stance and allowed it

  • to handle like a go cart.

  • The weight of the flipped engine kept the front

  • of the car very stable, despite its practical

  • advantages. The car bewildered customers at

  • first, but it took off.

  • By 1965, 1 million minis had been made.

  • Wasn't such a revelation to get in his car, which

  • cost less than five hundred pounds?

  • It was one of the cheapest cars in the market and

  • actually start driving it and realize that you

  • could have an economical vehicle.

  • That was also fun to drive.

  • It was in many ways like the Volkswagen Beetle in

  • that it was something of a classless vehicle

  • attracting a wide array of buyers.

  • You were buying a tiny sports car and you didn't

  • have to be a playboy to afford it.

  • So it was a great democratization of driving

  • enjoyment. This was partly helped by its

  • performance on the track.

  • The car's unique features made it a favorite

  • choice for race car drivers in the 1960s.

  • This eagerness was friends with the British race

  • car maker and driver John Cooper, who became

  • enamored with the cars handling and was convinced

  • it would make an excellent rally car.

  • Its agonies was initially reluctant, but Cooper

  • eventually persuaded him to produce the classic

  • Mini Cooper 9 9 7.

  • For racing drivers who've grown up with certain

  • types of cars, with the engine at the front and

  • the drive at the back. This was just absolute

  • revelation. Every time somebody got into a Mini

  • Cooper, they just couldn't believe how well it

  • went. Mini Coopers placed as high as third in the

  • famous Monte Carlo rally in 1963 and then won the

  • race for the first time the following year.

  • Minis would go on to win in 1965 and 1967, but

  • the 1969 film The Italian Job is often credited,

  • even by many itself, as a major catalyst that

  • boosted the car's reputation around the world.

  • Actor Michael Caine said that he didn't have a

  • license when the movie was filmed and actually

  • learned to drive on set.

  • The car was perfect for a film about a bank heist

  • that involved car chases down narrow Italian

  • streets. The Mini became something of a star in

  • itself and reportedly spurred a craze for the

  • tiny car. It also became a favorite ride for

  • celebrities at the time, including Steve McQueen.

  • All four Beatles and Mick Jagger from the Rolling

  • Stones. But the minis impact goes far beyond a

  • film inspired fad.

  • It's a gona says space saving power.

  • Train design, with its transverse engine and

  • front wheel drive, is today considered a

  • revolutionary and is credited with inspiring

  • generations of cars.

  • In 2000, a panel of 130 automotive journalists

  • chose the MINI as the European Car of the

  • Century. It came in second for the overall Car of

  • the Century award to the Ford Model T.

  • Over its lifetime, the money has been sold under

  • different brand names such as Maurice and Austin

  • and passed from owner to owner.

  • It ended up in the hands of BMW when the German

  • automaker bought Britain's Rover group in 1994.

  • The merger turned out to be bad for both parties,

  • and BMW ended up selling off most of the group's

  • brands, including Land Rover.

  • But it kept many, which remains part of BMW s

  • portfolio today.

  • Under BMW, Mini undertook its first redesign in

  • more than three decades.

  • To its horror, it realizes that nothing has been

  • done over decades to sort of replace this iconic

  • car that everyone loves.

  • So the old one realizes it is edging slowly

  • towards the point where it would be legal to sell

  • it anymore. You know, it can't be crash

  • regulations. It's polluting.

  • It's unsafe.

  • You know, it's noisy.

  • The company reintroduced the brand to North

  • America in 2002.

  • That year, a remake of the Italian job came out

  • with a distinctly different plot and a largely

  • American cast replacing the British one.

  • Critics observed that the minis were the only

  • link between the original film and the new one.

  • But BMW s new mini also aroused the ire of many

  • purists. The new BMW Mini was bigger than the

  • original, and detractors accused it of being more

  • of a retro looking showpiece than a true heir to

  • the original. By many measures, the car was a hit

  • anyway. BMW executives reportedly would have been

  • happy with selling 150000 minis around the world

  • in the early 2000s.

  • Today, they sell more than twice that.

  • But sales are falling that roughly 360 1000

  • units sold in 2018 was a 2.8

  • percent drop over the previous year.

  • Europe is the brighter spot in the story.

  • Sales of the BMW owned Mini have grown more or

  • less steadily from around 25000 cars in 2001 to

  • 270000 thousand in 2018.

  • But in the U.S.,

  • many sold 7 percent fewer cars in 2018 than it

  • did in 2017.

  • The decline continue to trend.

  • The brand has suffered since 2013, when sales

  • peaked at around 66000 units.

  • Many is yet another one of those small, quirky

  • and highly practical cars that is in one way,

  • quite literally, sitting in the shadow of taller,

  • chunkier crossovers.

  • Sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, which

  • are far more popular with buyers.

  • Many has tried to combat this by broadening its

  • product lineup. The company that made its name

  • selling tiny fuel efficient cars now sells a long

  • five door car called the Club Men and a crossover

  • like model called The Countryman.

  • This is the icon, the one that started it all,

  • but not the only one.

  • Final one for you. So although the calls who have

  • that harmony look to them, they really keep on

  • top of regulations and customer expectations to

  • keep improving it. And they don't want to go back

  • to that old British.

  • They say fair of just.

  • No, no. Well, we did. We make them like this and

  • we've always made them like this.

  • But by beefing up its vehicles, many is moving

  • further and further away from the traits that

  • made it so famous in the first place.

  • The Mini Cooper, for example, grew nearly 10

  • inches in length from 2002 to 2016.

  • It grew an inch and a half in width and gained

  • about 400 pounds.

  • Many had experimented with different designs in

  • its early days, including vans, wagons and

  • pickups. And to be fair, cars tend to get bigger

  • over time. The mid-sized pickups of today are all

  • larger than their forebears.

  • For example, comparing the size of a specific

  • model from the early 2000s, such as the BMW 3

  • series sedan with the three series of today will

  • demonstrate that even a single model is likely to

  • fatten up over time.

  • Today that evolution of light just standard Mini

  • Cooper to what we have now.

  • Like many SUV is antithetical to what the brand

  • stands for. Mini is also one of many automakers

  • betting that it can find a future by going

  • electric. The mini countryman hybrid accounted

  • for 13 percent of the countrymen's total sales in

  • 2018. The brand also debuted its first fully

  • electric production car, the Mini Cooper s E in

  • July of 2019.

  • Mini is lucky in that it has an exceptionally

  • strong brand identity, so the company has begun

  • to seek fortune outside the traditional

  • automotive business.

  • Some recent initiatives, which are so far small

  • in scope, are nonetheless remarkable and highly

  • unconventional for a car company.

  • For example, Mini has branched out into fields

  • such as fashion and real estate development.

  • The brand has partnered with Chinese development

  • firm Nova Property Investment Company to convert

  • a former paint factory in Shanghai, China, into a

  • mixed use communal living facility comprised of

  • apartments, workspaces and cultural and leisure

  • amenities in 2016.

  • Many also launched an incubator in Brooklyn, New

  • York, for startups across a range of industries,

  • including transportation.

  • These are bets many industry watchers say are

  • necessary for any automotive company to arm

  • itself for an uncertain future.

  • Many was a brand that grew out of a dire need for

  • small, fuel efficient cars.

  • But what made it such a strong cell generations

  • ago now makes it seem like a niche product, even

  • a curiosity to many consumers.

  • Despite the grumblings of all these many fans who

  • not long for this world, I would say, you know,

  • that the the way the the way they are running it

  • now is a premium. Small car brands is the right

  • thing to do. Many says the move toward larger

  • vehicles is in its favor.

  • The company sees this as its opportunity to gain

  • market share and reclaim the premium small car

  • market once again.

  • Many said its current generation is the best

  • product it has ever made, and that changes in

  • size are due in large part to minis need to meet

  • safety regulations.