MINI, the quirky British brand established by German luxury automaker BMW, grew from the Mini, an equally quirky model that was one of the most iconic and innovative cars of its era.
Against the backdrop of severe fuel shortages in the U.K., the British Motor Corporation tasked gifted designer Sir Alec Issigonis with creating a small, affordable and fuel-efficient vehicle for the masses. Issigonis responded with the ingenious design of the original...
1959 Mini, which created a template for passenger cars that is still used today.
Perhaps the most groundbreaking aspect of the Mini was its traverse engine placement, which allowed for a spacious passenger compartment with room for four adults despite the diminutive footprint of the car. The configuration also permitted a relatively long wheelbase, giving the Mini extremely nimble and responsive handling. Along with endearing styling, these characteristics helped to make the Mini a hit in Europe with over two million sales during the 1960s. The car also became a cult classic during its short stint in the United States, which was brought to a halt in 1968 when it couldn't meet new government emissions standards.
While the Mini stayed in production for more than 40 years, even becoming a brand in its own right in 1969, parent company British Motor Company was not so successful. After a series of mergers, name changes, and even public ownership, the chronically unprofitable automaker was eventually sold to BMW in 1994.
Looking to expand beyond premium vehicles into the middle of the automotive market, BMW revived the brand in 2002 with the introduction of the entry-level MINI Cooper. With cute looks, thrifty engines and a BMW-engineered chassis, the MINI Cooper quickly found success in America, leading the company to undertake a rapid product expansion. Today, no fewer than six derivatives of the standard model are offered, with the most popular being the Countryman crossover.