MotoringFile Exclusive: Ask Stracco

Motoringfile is happy to bring you our second interview with Jeff Stracco (“Stracco”), MINI USA Product Manager and Motorsports Manager.

MF: People seem very interested about what’s in your garage. Care to tell us?

Stracco Speaks: In my position, I rotate company cars about every 8000 miles and try to get a feel for everything. Right now my MINI is an R56 Cooper S, Sparkling Silver, black roof. Redwood Red Lounge Leather and with the Aftersales Redwood Red steering wheel and shifter. Before that it was a Chili Red JCW Convertible. And before that it was an Astro Black R50 Cooper with a silver roof. For my next car I’ll probably take over a JCW Cooper S from Thomas Kurz, although if I had my druthers it’d be an R56 Cooper. It’s personally my favorite MINI.

The MINI shares space with a couple of antique BMW motorcycles. They are a constant.

MF: Why is the Cooper your favorite?

Stracco Speaks: That’s easy. It handles as well as a Cooper S and is just as luxurious. Plus it has as a lot of torque and it is fun to work through the gears. 40 MPG is also quite satisfying.

MF: OK. Let’s talk about R56 Options and stuff. Will Recaro Seats like in the European GP be available in the US?

Stracco Speaks: Not that we don’t love Recaros, but they aren’t available anywhere right now.

MF: Well that seems pretty definitive. If MINIs are all about customization, why are there so many limitations on dash, color, upholstery and Colorline combinations. Is it a matter of taste?

Stracco Speaks: We hear you. If it were strictly up to MINI USA, you could order whatever you like, We don’t care what your taste is like and personally, I have a lot of bad taste. I brush a lot but it doesn’t go away. Regardless, this one goes back to Munich and the suppliers.

The home office limits the combos globally because other markets don’t want cars coming back off of lease with bizarro color combos. That makes a tough resell and translates into real Euros lost at the dealership. In the US that isn’t so much an issue because not too many MINIs are leased.

The other reason is that many of the parts come from suppliers as complete sub-assemblies. In order to control the variants, and also the costs, some limitations must be recognized.

But hey, we still have over 150 trillion possible configurations for the R56, so how limited are you really?

MF: Why no “pop on deceleration” for the R56 Cooper S? People seem to like it.

Stracco Speaks: Times do change. When the 05s came out we had lots of complaints that people hated the pop. Who knows? We’d like it back too, but as emissions become tighter and tighter the opportunities to take liberties with the fuel programming become fewer and fewer.

MF: One of the most controversial aspects of the interior of the R56 is the center stack. Will there be a redesign?

Stracco Speaks: Everything gets redesigned eventually, but you probably mean in the short term. I think it is waaaayyy too early to determine whether the R56 interior is a success or not. Just like with the exhaust popping, some people may not like it at first, but they learn to love it later. Almost everyone I have spoken with has felt this way. I know when I get back into an R50, the plusses of the R56 interior immediately become apparent, starting with the improved leg room.

MF: How about an R53 question? Will there ever be availability of GP parts to non-GP owners?

Stracco Speaks: The GP is a very exclusive car. The owner’s paid a premium for that exclusivity and performance so turning around and offering GP upgrades less than a year after its launch would make some of our best customers, quite unhappy.

MF: Will there be any JCW engine upgrades for the Cooper?

Stracco Speaks: How much would you be willing to pay for it? Right now there are no plans because the business fleem case doesn’t look good, but if enough people are willing to pay the right price…who knows?

MF: What about the D? With fuel prices going up, is there any plans to bring the MINI D to the US?

Stracco Speaks: Gabe, you know we’d love to, but it all comes down to the business case, which isn’t really good right now.

MF: Care to explain a bit?

Stracco Speaks: Sure.

At a minimum we have to have a 50 state emission compliant engine, otherwise we won’t have the volumes to make a business case out of it. 40% of all our sales are in CARB compliant states and with more states coming on board that percentage is only going to grow. MINI doesn’t have a CARB compliant diesel. Our diesel engines are from Peugeot. Since, PSA doesn’t sell cars in the US, we would have to eat all costs for homologation. That means more cost for the customer too.

Is it technically possible to have a 50 state compliant engine? Yes…but with sacrifices, like space. Bluetec (AdBlue) is the best method of scrubbing smog causing NOx right now, and it is basically a big tank of urea solution. Not many places on a R56 to put that. Of course that adds cost and weight too. On a larger BMW, M-B or even a Jetta, the used space and added weight get lost in the overall equation. Not so with a MINI.

MF: Doesn’t the new clean diesel fuel in the US help emissions?

Stracco Speaks: It helps with sulfur emissions but not NOx which is caused by the high combustion temps in a diesel engine. It has nothing to do with the fuel.   It’s not all gloom and doom though, There are other options.

MF: Care to tell us about the other options?

Stracco Speaks: I say “No” pretty often. It comes from working for Steinberg for 3 years. But you don’t really expect me to say “Yes”, to this question do you?

MF: It was worth a shot. Regarding fuel economy, will any of the fuel saving measures we’ve heard about for the 2008 models come to the US?

Stracco Speaks: Most of them are targeted at the EU test cycles, and so they aren’t really available in any major markets outside of Europe. They wouldn’t raise the official mileage here in the US in any case. The EPA cycle is quite different from EU tests and as you know, will become even more stringent in 2008. These features also add cost to the base MSRP. Despite all this, we’ll get them eventually. But not in 2008.

MF: Will there ever be some type of Chrono Pack or gauge cluster for the R56?

Stracco Speaks: We’re working on something. Can’t give you a definite “yes” or a time and cost right now though.

MF: OK…moving on….You’ve probably heard this one a million times. Will we ever have one touch up windows.

Stracco Speaks: Magic Motoring Ball says “Yes”

MF: Ahh…the notorious MMB. I was wondering when it would make an appearance. Does the Magic Motoring Ball say when?

Stracco Speaks: Oh yeah…I guess that is kind of important. Magic Motoring Ball says “All model year 08 R56s hardtops and R55 Clubman, will have one touch up with anti-trap, but not the convertibles.”

MF: Magic Motoring Ball said Clubman…not Clubmen.

Stracco Speaks: Yes, the plural of Clubman is also Clubman. Strange, maybe…but remember that the plural of MINI is also MINI. I’ll let you in on a little secret though. When the name of the R55 was still in legal limbo, one of the suggested names was “Loxley” as in Robin of Loxley. I like Clubman better.

MF: “Let’s Lox!”… It does have a certain ring. Speaking of the Clubman, I’ve heard it referred to as a “shooting brake”. Most Americans are not familiar with that term. Can you explain?

Stracco Speaks: A shooting brake was originally a type of car that was elongated, to serve as a hunting platform. So you can see where the name comes from. As time went by and there were fewer pheasants and grouse and less aristocracy with hunting ambitions, the term came to refer to any elongated variant. Defratu. Some were quite sporty. Aston Martin had a whole series of shooting brakes. You really can’t call that type of car a wagon or an estate. It’s something different…a shooting brake.

MF: Defratu?

Stracco Speaks: Didn’t think you’d catch that one.

MF: Are you concerned that people will label the Clubman a wagon?

Stracco Speaks: Colloquialisms are beyond our control, However when you say “wagon” I think Ford Country Squire or Buick Roadmaster. The Clubman is about as far from that as you can get.

MF: When the Clubman debuts, will the first show room models be pre-spec’d or will customers be allowed to spec the cars themselves?

Stracco Speaks: They’ll be pre-spec’d. The factory likes the first few weeks of production to have similar specifications. It gets them familiar with putting together a North American Spec vehicle. However, suffice it to say that we have a few tricks to make the pre-spec’d vehicles quite desirable.

MF: The next generation of convertible, what can you tell us?

Stracco Speaks: A lot you can already guess, Faster, more fuel efficient, better emissions and easier to live with. We’ll also be taking “Always Open” to measurably new levels.

MF: Measurably new levels?

Stracco Speaks: Seemingly.

MF: Does that mean it will be a hardtop convertible?

Stracco Speaks: Alex Issigonis was all about maximum use of minimum space. Would Sir Alex put a retractable hardtop on a MINI?

MF: Hey…are you interviewing me?

Stracco Speaks: Are you asking me to? Because I have a few questions about that lingerie site that you worked on….

MF: …OK next question. We’ve heard about a 4th variant and the rumors in the press mostly describe it as some kinda of micro SUV. Can you explain the thought process of stepping into what is an already crowded market of micro SUV’s?

Stracco Speaks: First off, I don’t know where their press get’s their “SUV” info.

Secondly, we’ve looked at the issue of how to expand the MINI brand very carefully. There is clearly a big demand from people who are enthralled by the MINI concept of premium material, emotional design, performance and customization but just can’t manage a MINI for practical reasons and were forced to buy something else. And so they are not MINI customers, but we’d like them to be.

Just a little more room is needed….to fit a drum kit, a St. Bernard, a tool kit… stuff… because as a rule Americans move stuff and not people… And really, a little more room is all we can provide with a name like MINI. As you pointed out the market is awash with cars that provide a lot more room better than we could, so there is no point in trying to be big.

Fortunately, you can make another MINI variant with more space without getting a much bigger MINI. It just depends on the shape and concept you choose. The “packaging” if you will.

Scion packaged their first generation cars very well. The previous generation xA and xB were about the same length and had the same engine, but clearly very different cars. Another example is the Dodge Hornet show car from last year. That car was not much bigger than a MINI and of course had a Tritec engine, but looked quite different.

MF: Do you really think that a 4th variant like you outlined would sell better than say a performance variant? The preponderance of posters on MF seem to want performance.

Stracco Speaks: We’ll have something for the performance minded, don’t you worry.

MF: So is there a chance for a MINI Roadster?

Stracco Speaks: A chance? What do you think?

MF: I think there are a lot of two seat roadsters in the market right now in the MINI price bracket: Solstice, Saturn, MX-5 of course. It would have to be unique

Stracco Speaks: Unique would help, but the business case always has to work, and this one would be particularly tough.

MF: OK, what are the chances for AWD?

Stracco Speaks: Again with “Chance”? You must be a gambling man. We always try to emphasize to the folks back in Munich how important AWD is in northern tier states. Again, it has to be a positive business case. We’d like to have it of course, but we don’t always get what we want. The rest of the world isn’t as big on AWD as we are in North America.

MF: A lot of posters want to know if MINI will be getting a DSG or equivalent.

Stracco Speaks: The only real manufacturer of Dual Clutch Transmissions right now is VW. They don’t have a supplier, they manufacture the DSG themselves. Their front wheel drive box is actually manufactured by VW under license from Borg-Warner. They can afford to manufacture it themselves because they have huge volumes with VW, Seat, Skoda, etc. But, as you could imagine they are not prepared to manufacture those for anyone outside the VW family.

Everyone else has a dual clutch gearbox “In development” or something like that. Or if they have one, it’s not appropriate for a MINI. So it will be a while yet.

MF: Do you think the proliferation of MINI variants will water down the brand?

Stracco Speaks: Certainly not. People are concerned about this whenever a beloved brand adds a new model that isn’t like the one in their own garage. Right now MINI is a cult, but we have the opportunity to make it into a culture. To do that, and to ensure the long term viability of our dealers, we need more variants. If we just stuck to making two door compacts, we would surely fail on both accounts.

MF: Understood. Looking around at the larger BMW group portfolio, do you see the 1 Series as a problem for MINI in the US? Are you worried?

Stracco Speaks: I doubt it. That hasn’t proven to be the case in Europe where the 1 has been available for a while. Plus, they are really quite different cars and different customers.

One is a customizable, torquey, fuel sipping, handling machine. The other is the heir to a Bavarian muscle car tradition with it’s own following.

The only people who need to worry is the competition.

MF: Speaking of competition. Smart will soon be launching in the US. Do you feel that they will be a competitor to the Cooper?

Stracco Speaks: Smart is even more of a niche vehicle than MINI is. It also doesn’t have any of the performance characteristics of a Cooper. Will they sell? Probably. It’s a neat concept for a small car, but it’s not close to our concept.

MF: Any chance of a pure stripped down MINI for the autocrossing and road racing crowds?

Stracco Speaks: In autocrossing, MINI pretty much owns G-stock and H-Stock in SCCA autocross. And we’ve taken 1st and 3rd in SSC road racing for the last two years. You don’t get much better than that. Of course that is with stock Cooper and Cooper Ss. I don’t know of anyone racing a GP which would be in T3.

We considered offering a stripped down John Cooper Challenge Car for road racing, but there isn’t really an SCCA class it could be competitive in, nor would it be usable in Grand Am ST. That means the chances of selling any would be remote. Before you ask: Such a car would never be legal for street use.

MF: Will MINI ever sponsor a full time race team like BMW sponsored PTG?

Stracco Speaks: Magic Motoring Ball says: “A race effort like that is more than our entire US budget for a year.” We’ll stick with grass roots efforts. We’ve had lots of success, so you don’t want to mess with that.

MF: Will there ever be a MINI United in North America?

Stracco Speaks: Don’t know. We’ve not shy about doing big events, that’s for sure. Last year we did MINI Takes The States which was REALLY a big event. Consider it MINI United, except with more motoring, better scenery and a party in a different city every night for two weeks. Keep in mind too that MTTS was an enormous effort for Trudy (Hardy) and her marketing team. There are only 6 of them and that’s half of us!

MF: Will there ever be a dealer in Iowa City/Champaign/Alabama? What is the plan for adding more dealers?

Stracco Speaks: Really this is Saward’s territory, but we’ll continue to add dealers very slowly and carefully. The factory is still pretty limited, so we can’t add more dealers if we can’t get more cars. Following that, if the business case for Iowa City, Champaign or Alabama is better than other areas, than it’s possible.

MF: Will MINIs ever be serviced at BMW dealerships?

Stracco Speaks: We hear this request all the time, and we have considered opening up the servicing of MINI vehicles outside the existing network. However, after careful consideration, we’ve come to the conclusion that it makes best sense to have trained, dedicated MINI technicians that are intimately familiar with the quirks of your particular model, servicing your cars. If a non-dedicated tech occasionally works on a MINI at the local BMW center, there is a real likelihood that the repairs performed may not be the right ones for the vehicle. MINI dealers have dedicated techs that are properly trained and they know MINIs, which is what’s needed from a customer satisfaction point of view. Yeah, I suppose proximity to a local dealer is part of the customer satisfaction equation, but so is fixing the car right the first time.

MF: What is the biggest challenge to MINI in the US? Production restrictions? Competitors?

Stracco Speaks: Exchange rate. It’s a profitability killer and a limiting factor on everything we do. Unfortunately, it is out of our control and that is a real problem. Remember when we started selling MINI in the US the exchange rate was close to $1 to 1 Euro. Now it is approaching $1.40 to 1 Euro. That is a 30% depreciation in value and its effect on the business is huge no matter how well the hedges were done.

MF: Bummer. Maybe I’ll write a letter to Bernanke.

So do you think we can have another “Hey Stracco Interview.”?

Stracco Speaks: Magic Motoring Ball says: “Stracco is outta here shortly, but I am sure Steinberg would be happy to answer your questions, frequently, and in a timely fashion.”

Magic Motoring Ball continues: “Perhaps you should suggest that a web-cam be kept in Steinberg’s cube at all times. People could view it on the MINI Lounge and in all the dealerships.”

MF: Thanks again. We’ll be looking forward to the next “Hey Steinberg”

  • Jon

    Great to hear from Stracco, good interview Gabe. Thanks to both of you guys for taking the time to do this.

    A lot of good information was presented. I have to say some of my nervousness with a “beefier” Clubman is somewhat better after hearing Stracco’s view on it, I do still wonder how it will stack up against heavier competition that is already exists in that similar market. I will relax and trust in Mini to develop something that doesn’t violate hard won Mini culture Mini has developed.

    Sad to hear that “Stracco is outta here shortly”, hope good things are in his future, and a huge thanks to him for his efforts to date.

  • Avitor

    A follow-up to the MINI service at BMW dealers, in case MINI USA is still paying attention: Why not station MINI certified and trained technicians at BMW dealers in areas devoid of MINI dealers yet ripe with MINI owners? Seriously! There is definitely a business case for it.

    If you aren’t going to open dealers in such areas the least you could do is cross train the existing service infrastructure in those areas.

  • Very entertaining interview and full of interesting information. Good work and kudos to all involved.

    My favorite line; “The only people who need to worry is the competition.”

  • Roccorocket

    MF: Will MINIs ever be serviced at BMW dealerships?

    Stracco Speaks: We hear this request all the time, and we have considered opening up the servicing of MINI vehicles outside the existing network. However, after careful consideration, we’ve come to the conclusion that it makes best sense to have trained, dedicated MINI technicians that are intimately familiar with the quirks of your particular model, servicing your cars. If a non-dedicated tech occasionally works on a MINI at the local BMW center, there is a real likelihood that the repairs performed may not be the right ones for the vehicle. MINI dealers have dedicated techs that are properly trained and they know MINIs, which is what’s needed from a customer satisfaction point of view. Yeah, I suppose proximity to a local dealer is part of the customer satisfaction equation, but so is fixing the car right the first time.

    My experience is that this is not an accurate statement. At last count 40% of my dealer visits included a return trip for the same or related issue. Even dedicated techs get it wrong.

    After one repair my MINI was returned to the dealer on a flat bed to have the job done a second time, I can say they still do not always get it done right the first time.

  • lavardera
  • lavardera – Just a heads up, we reported that news last week from another publication (same info) and it’s basically a copy of a story that first appeared on MotoringFile last January.

  • lavardera

    Yes, I know, but I’ve not seen that particular rendering before. There was another image circulating with an odd front grill – audi/vw like. This one looks more plausible.

  • Yes, I know, but I’ve not seen that particular rendering before. There was another image circulating with an odd front grill – audi/vw like. This one looks more plausible.

    True – this is the best I’ve seen. However renderings like that are fictionally based. They’re fun to look at but (has history has proven) are based on nothing more than what a writer and artist think a vehicle may look like.

    So back to the topic at hand… I for one found Stracco’s answers very interesting. For me this is probably one of the best, most informative pieces ever posted to MF. I’m a little surprised that some of the info above hasn’t been commented on yet.

  • lavardera

    The most exciting thing to me was it sounded quite certain that a two seat vert is in the works. Sounds like a nice range of cars developing.

  • Fred

    It’s very good to see Iowa City mentioned in your interview, Gabe. Mini ownership in eastern Iowa would grow with a dealership there. It is central to several population centers, and itself has a vibrant economy with an educated, youthful demographic.

    When people ask where I got my Mini, and I have to tell them it’s 250 miles to any dealership, interest wanes pretty fast, despite high interest in the car.

    Thanks for a very interesting interview!

  • Chad

    Maybe the configurator should first ask if you are leasing or buying. If you choose buy, then the craziness happens.

  • great piece – thanks guys.

    and gabe, thanks for asking my question regarding the center stack ; ) i must admit i am now officially a fan of the “nav” look!

  • “SS; It’s not all gloom and doom though, There are other options.”

    This is likely the most telling comment regarding fuel efficiency/alternatives to the existing “green” movement. Other options to diesel? Other options to cleaning diesel emissions? Hmm… a very leading comment to ponder…

  • jas cooper

    Frankly, I think the response regarding service locations and lack of dealers sucks. I live 50 miles north of Philly, and there are two dealers within spitting distance of each other, but none even close to me. Since MINI is actually a BMW company it would be easy to add a MINI dealer service location to any of them.

    As for having too many dealers to satisfy demand, well isn’t that the idea. Create demand and expand production to meet that demand.

    Someone at MINI needs to go back to business school.

    If the situation doesn’t change, they’ll get their wish. I’ll be buying a vehicle that I don’t have to spend a day to get the oil changed.

  • jas cooper

    Another thing…

    As for AWD, Subaru and Audi don’t seem to be suffering…

  • Nice work, MF team!

    Stracco … I was surprised you got as many answers as you did from him! He & his 8-ball must be mellowing 😉

  • Nathaniel Salzman
    Maybe the configurator should first ask if you are leasing or buying. If you choose buy, then the craziness happens.

    I for one have to applaud MINI for sticking to their design guns. If you want some crazy combination of colors on your MINI, then take it to a custom shop and pony up – it’s not MINI’s responsibility to provide you with every combo of everything. Buyers are already spoiled positively rotten with the number of choices and options available on the MINI from the factory. So complaint that one particular dash color isn’t available with another interior color is just ridiculous IMO. I’d bet good money that the design team held surface A up against color B and said a collective “yuck” and so it’s not available that way – which is a very good thing. It’s very smart on the part of MINI not to just allow combinations to happen willy nilly. As most any designer can tell you, the gap between what people think looks good (mostly because it was their idea) and what actually looks good, is wide and deep.

    All of which stems from the myth that design is purely subjective – that designers simply take something primitive and decorate it – and therefore anybody can do it. That’s rubbish. Shape obeys purpose and there are consistent principles of scale, repetition, texture, proportion, and yes COLOR that designers have studied in their education and honed through years of experience. And there’s no ego in that, just expertise. It’s the difference between the armchair quarterbacks and the actual athletes who can chuck a football 80 yards. Both can appreciate the throw, but when it comes down to it, Peyton Manning should be throwing footballs, not me.

    Anyway, enough soap boxing. Go MINI for giving us so many great choices! And thanks for taking the time Stracco!

  • Richard

    Up here in Canada, BMW dealers do the service for me; and let me say what great service it is. It definitely is one of the reasons I will continue with the brand. Town and Country BMW, Markham, Ontario (just north of Toronto)

  • Richard

    What is this ‘pop on deceleration?’ I have and 03 MCS, and I guess it started with the 05’s

  • Nigel

    Nice interview, for the most part, but unfortunately questions regarding European Delivery and the 6 year/100K mile MINI extended service contract were totally ignored.

    -Nigel

  • JZ

    Great interview – the info and forum are appreciated – who else in the car industry does this?

    anyway, i was kinda surprised to read Stracco’s preference of the MC over the MCS. i wonder if the comment is marketing related to increase MC sales?

    either way, i have read of prefences of MC over MCS in 3 magazines by reviewers.

  • Volkan

    It is the “pop” when you let the gas pedal off… It actually started from the beginning (including your car). Has that been softened ever for some later models (e.g. 05-06)? Obviously, the 07 models dont have it (yet?). Bummer 🙂

  • lavardera

    Well, they have it on the 07s in europe.

  • It is the “pop” when you let the gas pedal off… It actually started from the beginning (including your car). Has that been softened ever for some later models (e.g. 05-06)? Obviously, the 07 models dont have it (yet?). Bummer 🙂

    It started with the ’05 model year which began in July of 2004.

    Well, they have it on the 07s in europe.

    I can verify that MINI’s currently produced for Europe do not have it.

    Nice interview, for the most part, but unfortunately questions regarding European Delivery and the 6 year/100K mile MINI extended service contract were totally ignored.

    The euro delivery question was answer a couple of weeks ago with an article linked from MF.

  • Mike

    I’m glad to hear the auto up feature will be on the 08 model year. Too bad I got an 07, ha. Any idea if this will be possible to retrofit via software flash or something simple?

  • JP

    MINI has two major problems. First, is the Euro which makes building cars in Europe a very expensive proposition. Yes, you can hedge the currency, but it’s not cheap to do so. The second is capacity. It sound like MINI has already reached the capacity of the expanded factory. In 2008 they will be building three cars at the same plant without the ability to add to the overall capacity. It’s like shuffling chairs on the Titanic. In the end, this means that MINI will have to look elsewhere to build and keep costs down. Can anyone say South Carolina. Well, BMW already builds cars there.

  • If we started building the new variant MINI in S. Carolina….we would be able to have high cost goodies because of no bad exchange rate! AWD, blah, blah, blah…..

  • AN

    JAS – 50 miles North of Philly? Doesn’t that put you really close to the MINI dealer in Princeton?

  • Dave Newman

    Nice Interview. If you do it again, I would love to know if they plan on allowing a regular MC hood (bonnet) on a MCS – I hate that fake hood scoop and much prefer the nice clean lines of the MC hood. Short of buying one after delivery and having it painted and installed, a factory option on a customer ordered car would be nice.

  • driverphil

    I would like to have had some indication of Mini Takes The States 2008. Will it happen?

    I’m 2 hours from my dealer. Once a year, basically, I plan a fun day in the big city.

  • Adam

    I was a little surprised that he was so forthright about the fact that MINIs in Europe are tuned for cycle beating.

  • rhawth99

    Good to hear that father BMW is softening on the availability of some gauges for their premium small car. It is also great to hear that one up windows will be available on the driver side – I still want it on the passenger side too! 🙂 I hope the gauges are available in 08 as I am really looking forward to the Clubman (even though it means bye-bye to my ’06). Thanks for asking about the chrono pack and gauges – it was a very informative interview. Thanks to Stracco for taking the time to meet with you.

  • Ketan

    Sorry guys been busy with Harry Potter lately and haven’t had a chance to keep up but nice interview got a lot of little details.

  • R50

    Is that Stracco on the motorcycle? I too have a couple of older BMW motorcycles: an R50 and an R80. It was too cool to also purchase a Mini R50. Good read – thanks

  • “MF: Any chance of a pure stripped down MINI for the autocrossing and road racing crowds?

    Stracco Speaks: In autocrossing, MINI pretty much owns G-stock and H-Stock in SCCA autocross. And we’ve taken 1st and 3rd in SSC road racing for the last two years. You don’t get much better than that. Of course that is with stock Cooper and Cooper Ss. I don’t know of anyone racing a GP which would be in T3.”

    This was my question, more or less – Thank you for including it. Why mess with a good thing, sounds right to me.

  • SB

    Thanks for putting in the Alabama question, Gabe. Now to see if we, Alabama, as a whole can come up with something for MINI to recognize. Something that says “Yes” to future sales instead of us just wanting service. 🙂

  • Another great interview, but disappointing on a personal level. No new service facilities and no diesel option means this is my last MINI unless that changes (or my plans to move to the NW or NZ come off).

    So where is Stracco going?

  • Vanwall

    Nicely informative and slyly humorous – Stracco very clever man with nice scooters. Guess the Recaros will have to be aftermarket, 🙁 – but thanks for the input all the same. Bummer, at least for “anywhere right now”. 😉 Thanks for the good word for Coopers – I doubt M. Stracco would BS about that choice just for the MadAv folks.

    The only problem I have with the dealer network is the illogic of the present concentration – too many are too close to each other, with a lack of on the ground observation regarding potential markets and realistic dealer placement. You can practically walk from sunroof to sunroof in any one LA dealer’s back-lot to another’s. I know it’s a bit of a crapshoot in the beginning, but it strikes me BMW would never allow BMW owners to lack for service bays in fairly large potential markets like, say, Phoenix or San Diego. Why MINI? – if it was the dealers hesitating, shoulda used a shade-tree-er’s maxim – don’t force it, get a bigger hammer.

    Dodged the question a bit re the center stack – throw ’em a bone about leg room, eh? Why not just point vaguely into the air and yelp out, “Look!! The Winged Victory of Samothrace!!” Uh, what did I just ask you? Still would like a response before the curious plastic choices become a bit Noddy.

    I guess the diesel debate will have a second or third life, now – the factory is dodging in this case. Poor Rudolf – his advice to invest in peanut futures still hasn’t paid off for me yet.

    Nice to see that the possible 4by is along my line of thinkin’, as well. Shooting brake? I say, old chap, hard enough to get good beaters on the grounds now as it is, and hounds in the back? Hardly a hunt’s worth, you know, and where to put a good water dog after the shoot? Besides, my Parkers and Purdeys simply must be conveyed in an Aston – perhaps a good keeper’s car, the MINI, eh, wot?.

    We’ll miss your repartee, Stracco. Leave the MMB for later use, there’s a good lad.

  • lavardera

    I don’t think he dodged the question about the center stack. If you don’t like it, well he did not give you the answer you hoped for. Never the less it will be due for a redesign when the product cycle is up. I’m fine with that, but I like the center stack. But this designer’s eye does not like the nav. I think it ruins the speedo and the character it adds. Somewhat better than the R50/53 nav or chrono, but it walks all over one of the most singular parts of the interior.

    Maybe with the redesign they will find a way to do a pop-up nav. Something that won’t interfere with the speedo, and give us gauges too. With all the blank areas in the vertical stack they must have room for these other elements if the composition was revisited.

  • Seto
    I’m glad to hear the auto up feature will be on the 08 model year. Too bad I got an 07, ha. Any idea if this will be possible to retrofit via software flash or something simple?

    Gabe I was wondering this as well. My MA says yes when the software becomes available but I wasn’t sure if that was a fact or not???

  • Vanwall

    lavardera – The blank spaces in the center stack were one of the areas I was hoping he’d address, which along with some of non-intuitive, and frankly, cheap looking and feeling plastic bits are my only beef. Instead, it was a bit of the la-de-da about everything changes eventually, but four or five years is a bit longish for me if the cycle stays true, and changing the subject to other appurtenances in the interior which weren’t part of the question is no real answer one way or another – I can read between the lines, yeah, so my hope is steps have possibly been taken already. I personally have only a few quibbles with the re-design, but it would have been nice to have both of our concerns positively, or negatively, addressed. I was hoping for a different nav interface myself, pop-up or anything else – it does tend to dominate now in a big way.

  • rattmobbins

    I really hope they can retro-fit the auto up windows in the 07 R56!!!

  • Aussom

    Regarding the BMW Maintenance of MINI (note the plural term) matter: in Australia, our BMW service centres also service MINI. If there’s something the BMW mechanics don’t know, they contact the main MINI maintenance centres to find out.

    In major Australian cities, the MINI service centre is co-located with the BMW service centre, however most of the MINI sales dealers are separate from the BMW dealers. As a MINI customer, I’m treated very well by both BMW and MINI and have had no issues.

    From a service timeframe, I agree that the trained MINI technicians are quicker with servicing the MINI and do a slightly more professional job because they know and work with the MINI a lot more regularly.

  • Re: auto-up … Stracco mentioned “pinch protection” which would require hardware sensors – those don’t exist on R50/53 and presumably don’t exist on ’07 R56 either, so I don’t see any update for ’07 R56s (unless they offer a kit which adds the sensors – that would cost a lot more than a quick re-program)

  • Aussom

    The “one touch up” if I understand means that you can temporarily push the window switch up and the window automatically winds itself all the way up? If so, this feature has been on the Australian MINIS since at least 2002 (my car was manufactured in April 2002 and has this feature on the driver’s window only). Both windows have “one touch down” programmed also.

    MINI has told me that both front windows can be programmed for “one touch up”. I’m surprised if/that this hasn’t happened in the USA as yet. Then again MINI mechanics tell me that Australia has different software flash versions to the USA, so it’s possible that we also have different features embedded compoared to the USA?

  • Krash

    I thought it was interesting how Stracco mentioned the MC having lots of torque. 114 ft-lbs max @ 4250 rpm seems rather anemic to me….even less than a Civic EX. And before we get into a flame war about Mini being a totally different animal than a “boring Honda”, I just mentioned it for reference.

    JZ, where did you read the reviews on MC vs MCS?

    But I do agree…A Mini, regardless of trim is fun to row through the gears.

  • greg

    No JCW questions?

  • Ken

    I’d also like to here a part two interview that talks about the factory JCW.

  • Stuart
    Just a little more room is needed… to fit a drum kit.

    My Pearl drum kit fits just fine in my R50 Cooper.

  • I can’t believe how much that Aston Martins head lights look like a MINIs

    So, was he saying there is a chance for a convertible hard top or not?

    If there will be no diesel, what are the other options he wouldn’t answer?? Hybrid?

  • Love Vanwall:

    Stracco very clever man with nice scooters.

    In South Africa, we have a few select BMW dealers that have MINI Service only – no sales offices.

    But, in our small province, we also have 10 MINI dealers…

  • Radley

    What I really would like to know if BMW/MINI ever going to offer MINI Assist like BMW Assist?

  • Steve

    We need to push for a “woody” Clubman.

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