DETROIT – A move to increase production capacity at Mini’s Oxford, U.K., plant and add production of a cross/utility derivative at Magna Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik isn’t likely to be the end of the story for the boutique brand, says BMW AG’s top sales executive.

BMW already has completed an expansion of the Oxford plant, taking capacity from 240,000 to 260,000 for 2008. Launch timing of the Mini Sport Activity Vehicle hasn’t been revealed, but speculation is the new model will go into the Steyr plant in Graz, Austria, once output of the BMW X3 is shifted to Spartanburg, SC, in 2010-2011.

Volume expectations for the Mini CUV, which will expand the lineup to four basic offerings alongside the coupe, convertible and new Clubman, also haven’t been disclosed. However, reports suggest BMW is eyeing about 40,000 units annually of the new model.

Despite near-term sales targets that could be stretching above 300,000 units, the global market is not in danger of becoming over saturated with Minis, says Stefan Krause, management board member in charge of global sales.

“It’s a 12 million-unit segment,” Krause says in an interview at the North American International Auto Show. “Even if we were to move Mini into several-hundred-thousand units, we still would continue to be a smaller player in this segment. That’s why I think the world wants more Minis.

“When I look at how sold out we’ve been on that car, including here in the U.S., we don’t see a limit to the growth.”

With the move to squeeze out another 20,000 units from Oxford, the current plant is nearing its physical limits, which is why BMW looked to Magna for production of the upcoming CUV derivative. To go further, the auto maker may have to add new brick and mortar.

“That is the next step,” Krause says of the program at Magna. “After that we will have to assess how further growth will be.”

There is room for expansion in Oxford.

“It’s a matter of investment,” he says. “We have enough space. The factory’s not restricted in terms of its size. And if you drive around Oxford, there are a few football-like fields around that we own. So it’s a question of what would we have to invest?

Last year, Mini sold a record 222,000 vehicles worldwide, up 18.5% from 2006.

dzoia@wardsauto.com