BMW AG builds the last of the current-generation Mini convertible at its plant in Oxford, U.K., as preparations begin for the Mark II Mini Cabrio due to hit the market in March.

In total, the auto maker produced about 164,000 of the Mini ragtops.

The U.K. and the U.S. have been the top two markets for the car, which together with Germany, Italy and Japan comprise about 77% of Mini convertible sales.

Australia and Canada also rank among the top-10 Mini convertible markets, and particularly high growth rates were recorded recently in China and Russia.

BMW says the U.K. plant now will be fully engaged in building the Mini and Mini Clubman models until production of the Mark II Cabrio starts later this year.

Since production began in 2001, the plant in Oxford has produced more than 1 million Minis, with more than 80% of them exported to almost 80 countries.

Sales in the first six months of 2008 rose 17.9% to 126,810 units.

Oxford Plant Managing Director Oliver Zipse says exports are a key factor for the success and stability of the plant.

“Since Mini was launched, we have seen a significant increase in export from less than 60% in 2001 to over 80% this year,” he says.

The plant employs 4,700 workers on a 3-shift basis producing up to 800 Minis per day, seven days a week. Another 2,100 workers are employed at the Mini stamping plant in Swindon, U.K., and the engine plant in Hams Hall near Birmingham, U.K.