FRANK Bachmann was barely three years old when he first fell in love with the Mini.

Growing up in Zurich, Switzerland, the managing director, who is leaving Oxford this week, describes seeing a neighbour driving her red Mini classic in and out of her family home and being enthralled.

"We had neighbours and their daughter, who seemed to me age old – 18, 19 or something - was driving this red Mini classic" he recalls.

"I fell a bit in love with her. That was my first contact with the car. Every time I saw one, I was thinking of her.

"Since then there has not been much time where we didn’t drive a Mini in my family.

"We now own two – my daughter has one, my wife has one. They are special.

"It is not just the design, it is the behaviour. It feels like a go-kart. It is the agility of the car which really makes it possible."

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The 58-year-old, who has managed the Oxford and Swindon Mini plants for nearly seven years, is leaving to return to Germany and run BMW's Regensburg plant.

A father-like figure, Mr Bachmann has been a popular presence on the shop floor and has guided the plant during one of its most uncertain periods in recent history and to the cusp of a new chapter of electrification.

He describes the culture and heritage of the factory in Oxford as being special and completely different from anything he has experienced in his three decades in the industry.

It was this, in part, that led to the team being awarded the contract to assemble the world's first electric Mini which will go into production later this year.

"The passion of the people to be part of electro-mobility was tangible from the beginning" he said.

"People here wanted to build that Mini in the home of Mini.

"We are using exactly the same line. So we can build a combustion engine car followed by a battery-driven car.

"Keeping that flexibility is a requirement for the future.

"It wasn’t just management, it was the involvement of all the people here. They were extremely creative in a competitive, affordable way. – they made it happen."

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Mr Bachmann is one of the few people to have driven a prototype of the new car and describes it as having a 'completely different character' to the regular Mini while still retaining many of the hallmarks of the brand.

But, he predicts, this new model is not about to completely replace its combustion-engine predecessor any time soon.

The UK Government has announced plans to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 and is under pressure from environmental campaigners to bring this forward.

When asked if the Oxford plant could be producing electric-only cars in ten years time, the self-confessed 'petrol-head' said he felt combustion engines still had a role to play for 20 years at least.

He said: "The uses of these cars differ if you are living downtown in a big city or in a rural area, 50 kilometres away from the nearest place.

"There are circumstances where I would always prefer an electric Mini and there are times where I would like to hear the roar of a John Cooper Works.

"Cars need to adapt to local requirements. At this point in time concentrating only on electric cars is a bit dangerous and underestimates the volatility of the market.

"Which is why we wanted to keep it flexible."

Indeed, this in-built flexibility of the Oxford production line could mean other cars are built there for BMW in future, according to Mr Bachmann, but he says there are currently no plans to do so.

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On the inevitable Brexit question, he is characteristically diplomatic.

He says planning for its impact started from the day after the referendum and the organisation's best engineering minds have been applied to the complex process of playing out all the different scenarios and trying to mitigate any potential negative consequences.

BMW has never shied away from speaking out about a 'no deal' Brexit, something it sees as the 'worst case scenario' and senior executives have said previously that they will have to consider moving Mini production to the Netherlands unless they can get more certainty for the future.

But Mr Bachmann is still positive that the plant and his successor, Dr Peter Weber, are well set-up for whatever the next few months and years will bring.

He said: "We are an operation that is relying on the free movement of goods and people, so Brexit has been an issue for us from the beginning.

"But I am absolutely convinced we have done everything we need to do to prepare for whatever is going to happen.

"I sense from the shop floor that people are not happy about the developments but they trust that we know what we are doing. If we say they have a future here, then they will have a future here."