MINI to Base New Model off of Crossover?

Over the last year we’ve heard some rumbling that the MINI Crossover didn’t justify the cost of the development as a single model. To put it frankly BMW needed to create another iteration off of the same chassis to make the accountants sign-off on the deal. However it’s only been recently that we’ve started to see real signs of their plans. According to British Magazine Autocar, MINI is planning on a five door two wheel drive model that sits on the same chassis as a way to make the crossover chassis development eventually profitable.

The car will is expected to help round out the MINI range and provide a more efficient people moving option for the MINI brand over the R60 crossover. The expectation is that these additional models will push the brand over the 500,000 mark that will allow research and development programs to finally stand on their own outside of BMW. Autocar expects that we should see some sort of teaser at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

+ Mini’s future has five doors / Autocar

46 Comments

  • Pete says:

    Sounds like a remake of the Austin Maxi to me…that BMC Landcrab of the early 70’s to 1980! Yech…nothing like the bean-counters running the company!

  • DUDE! says:

    Gad!

  • C4 says:

    Exactly. Bean counters and greed ruining a great brand and a great product. Way to go BMW!

  • Mk1 says:

    Condolences. Where do we send the wreaths?

  • bee1000 says:

    Nobody’s ruining “the brand” by expanding the line-up. There are only so many people in the market for a sporty 3-door hatchback with no room for adults in the backseat. Those people bought Minis.

    Shockingly, in 2005, Mini made optional an automatic transmission in its Cooper S model. Much rending of garments followed as the Mini faithful bemoaned the dumbing down of the precious brand. Interestingly, those who wanted to shift for themselves still were allowed to buy manual transmissions.

    Then Mini brought out the Clubman so people who wanted a sporty hatchback, but needed a usable backseat, could buy Minis, too. Interestingly, people who didn’t need a usable backseat were still allowed to buy the original 3-door model, with or without an automatic transmission.

    From there Mini could either go bigger or go smaller to reach additional customers. Other than the oddball Smart, there has been been little to no market for smaller-than-Mini cars in the US, so they decide to go bigger with the upcoming 4WD SUV. Interestingly, the smaller models will continue to be sold, with or without usable backseats, with or without automatic transmissions.

    Now Mini can either start over and spend a zillion dollars to develop a new platform, or try to create a 2WD variant based on the SUV’s platform. I can certainly see where it makes more sense to go the latter direction (although the article linked to is dated 7/2/08, which puts in the category of old news), and I know that it doesn’t matter at all to me because I’m still allowed to drive my Cooper S with its useless backseat and manual transmission. Should I tire of it, I still am allowed to buy a new Cooper S with a useless backseat and manual transmission. Hopefully all the new, ever more expensive variants will keep Mini profitable and around for a long time to come, lest all Minis, with or without backseats and automatic transmissions and 4WD and barn doors, cease to exist.

  • C4 says:

    Bee, I am not totally disagreeing with you, but you have to keep in mind that in this economic climate auto manufacturers have to plan their moves very carefully in order to avoid costly pitfalls. BMW is not exactly a Toyota or GM when it comes to cash resources and while they are better positioned than the latter, last year their sales went down 90%. Whatever cash they have now has to be saved for the future in anticipation to further market declines as no one really knows how 2010 will be.

    I still think an SUV is simply a poor product decision for MINI to make (Sorry Gabe, I know this annoys you and your faithful readers to no end) and spending money and resources on a product that will sell in the $35K-$40K bracket is pretty risky at best.

    BMW knows well that these are very different times from when Porsche launched the controversial Cayenne SUV. So the R60 is a huge risk of all sorts. I do not understand the car industry fascination with the CUV/SUV segment. There is nothing wrong with estates/station wagons (Clubman anyone?) and simply adding a 4th door to the Clubman would probably had been sufficient instead of offering a vehicle with no real off road capabilities and limited cargo space for top Dollar charge.

  • Gabe says:

    @C4: Check those stats again on sales. And I have no idea what your talking about in terms of being annoyed. I could care less.

  • C4 says:

    “Profit” down 90% for 2008, not sales I stand corrected.

  • Beavers says:

    Bee1000 –

    Well said!

  • goat says:

    Perhaps there is a silver lining here? Will the 2WD R60 = RWD R60?

  • JonPD says:

    While I am still not a fan of the R60 and consider is wrong in more than one way.

    Developing a second car from the platform makes great sense. Shared manufacturing is one of the best paths to producing enough numbers to offset development costs. I have heard that Mini needs to see around 500,000 of the R60 platform to offset the development cost. By including what will likely be a cheaper version of the R60 platform this should help. The article makes some good points for sure.

    Bee1000 Where I live I actually see more Smarts now than I do Mini’s. While I know their numbers for this rubbish car are no were near Mini’s sales I do believe that they have become a iconic car to a lot of people. I personally don’t have any issues with the size of the current Mini although I do prefer smaller cars yet and much less weight. I can say that I will be checking out the 500 and GiTo (if it comes stateside) and of course will be watching the Project I development.

  • Evolve or die. Sell the same car long enough and people loose interest. Look at a couple of very stoic brands, like Saab and Volvo, that very rarely change their designs and you’ll see two brands struggling to stay afloat. Saab’s as good as done for and Volvo is a case of too little too late. People get bored with the same old mid-cycle refreshes and want to see a brand that is pushing boundaries with new product lines. Though I never expected MINI to go in this direction.

    I think the inherent problem we all feel is that these new models fly in the face of what we expected from the brand. “The anti SUV” is no more. The idea of less is more is out the window. The expectation of 60’s style chopped variants of existing designs into vans, wagons, and cute little off-roaders never materialized. We drank the MINI cool-aid but times have changed drastically and we’re still reeling from the shock and disappointment.

  • Doug says:

    I too am flummoxed as to how MINI can stay relevant without offering fence-sitters more options and choices. I don’t see their new developments as greed-motivated, but rather as ways to evolve.

    I don’t think it has to always be bigger-is-better. Perhaps the micro-MINI is going to help. But it seems good to remember, even the Clubman is a small car in the scheme of things. Every car model gets bigger every 4-5 years, and the MINI brand is still cool and small when you look at it that way. So evolve or die, I tend to agree.

  • JonPD says:

    I will not harp on this, but developing a suv is less than evolution, instead of coming up with a unique product like they did with the original R50 they have developed the same car that just about every other manufacture has. I tend to think Mini’s power comes in at providing unique developments not the standby of the rest of the car industry.

    I quite honestly believe that long term the US will be looking harder at items like whats been going on in Europe. Wagons are much more usable than SUVs in great many ways. I would have much rather seen Mini develop a true 4 door wagon out of a extended Clubman. I also believe there is plenty room at the bottom of the brand, the Smart is a prime example of this.

  • M. Dillon says:

    I agree with the above individuals who understand that MINI has to expand its’ lineup to stay profitable.

    Last time I’ve checked,people who can afford a big SUV are now looking for SUVs that sips less feul;not to mention,smaller in size. Plus,anybody who keeps up with the car business knows that SUVs/Trucks tend to have higher profit margins…

    …the same profit margins to bankroll a 2-seater,AWD MINI drop-top in the future,perhaps?(Wink,Wink,nudge,nudge,to BMW/MINI Management)

  • M. Dillon says:

    …uh-oh,I forgot to spell check: “feul”=”fuel”

  • lavardera says:

    If there is any risk with the R60, and I doubt it won’t be successful, the risk is reduced by producing more models on the platform. Did you even read the article? I’m not sure what kind of logic delusion you all are sniffing, but please spare us, please.

  • Brian says:

    I have a question, and someone that knows more about this feel free to correct me.

    My reasoning is, since MINI is part of BMW and BMW already has around 10 different models (or more) of cars and SUVs; why is it that MINI always uses the argument that the MINI brand needs to expand to be profitable?

    I’m going to over-simplify here, but in the end, isn’t the MINI just another model in BMW’s lineup? Why do they need to keep expanding MINI instead of viewing the Cooper as an expansion to BMW’s current model offerings?

    That way maybe they don’t need to create all these other MINI models and they can spend more time on tweaking and perfecting the current Coopers, and make them truly stand out in their segment.

  • JonPD says:

    Lav if that commentary was directed my way, not following you. In my first comment was saying more models on a common platform was a good idea. The article states Mini needs to produce 500,000 R60 platforms to pay for the development.

    While I expect that the R60 will sell, I do have to wonder how long it will take them to even recover the development costs let alone move into the profitable area. This is something more models sharing the platform should help with. I also expect that funds are pretty tight at Mini so future developments may live or die depending on the success of this model. Guess part of my fear is that they will still be paying for this development when they begin the redesign of the next generation coupes which depending on the funding from BMW could affect what they do.

  • Doug says:

    JonPD, yeah, I’ve read your posts on the MINI crossover, and your many responses to people simply posting their take on it. Stepping out of the MINI universe for a second, the MINI crossover is not really an SUV like you say, so I am going to disagree with you that it’s more than an evolution.

    The reason being, it’s still a small vehicle, all things considered, and the U in SUV/CUV is utility and I don’t think many Americans are going to think SUV when they see it. I could be wrong. AWD and ride height aside, I think people will still see a smart alternative car, which is what MINI stands for in American, is evolving to stand for, in my opinion. So, I do not think MINI has lost the mission statement with this car until I see it in person.

    As far as your observations about wagons, and how America will look to Europe, I have read this for years and have seen no evidence of it happening here in the States. I like wagons as well, especially the Audi Avants, but I do not see non-specialty drivers looking to Europe, nor do I see wagons as inherently better than the CUV movement that has taken place to reign-in the excesses of SUV’s.

    A wagon with a sporty-engine like we all like to drive could conceiveably get worse mileage than a conservative engine in a crossover, so the moral high ground that some people point to when they talk about wagons is somewhat muddy. (Is an Audi S4 wagon from 2006 a smart car to be driving, at 17 mpg city?) Just to say, to each his/her own. Many factors are in play.

    Looking at the entrenched desire for psychological protection on the road via a higher stance, and the perception that wagons are weak-sauce design-wise, I don’t see any movement in the USA toward wagons. Do you? I don’t defend SUV drivers, one just hit my car in a parking lot due to the driver’s poor visibility, but I am merely saying what is. Small hatches, perhaps, are catching on. Maybe some argument can be made about that turning into an affinity for wagons. I’d be interested in data that proves this.

    With all of this out there, MINI introducing a car like the crossover strikes me as, yes, an evolution on the idea that smaller is better.

  • GregW says:

    Firstly – the Maxi was not called the “Landcrab”. This moniker was given to the Austin/Morris 1800 – the biggest FWD Issigonis car after the Austin/Morris 1100. BMC made bigger models not expand Mini in size. Secondly – there are smaller cars being made in Japan and Europe than the MINI which is a big car in comparison. Obviously USA market does not take these models because of the outdated thinking that “bigger is better”. Thirdly – Japan’s Suzuki make a very sucessful range of small cars. The Swift a 4 dr hatch, and a bigger SX4 crossover. Finally – You don’t have to keep making newer models bigger in size. Why BMW cannot make a car with decent leg room in the rear is a mystery to me.

  • GregW says:

    To expand the previous post. BMC and Issigonis were onto a winner with the Mini. They then applied the same thinking and made the Austin/Morris 1100 (USA name Austin America) a bigger 4 door with same engine/gearbox set up. Then followed the Austin/Morris 1800. see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMC_ADO17, and even bigger 4 dr with same basic engine gearbox design but using the “B” series engine as in the MGB. A slow revving clumbersome car. So BMC increased their range with new bigger models not expand the Mini in size. Ironically the 1100 and 1800 range was dropped and the Mini survived for 41 years without getting bigger or redesign. What we have to remember is that MINI is a make/marque, not a model. The name MINI is an unfortunate name to give to a brand especially if you keep making bigger models. Most people call R50 and R56 BMW Minis anyhow.

  • Viley says:

    I’m not taking sides, just pointing that now on streets whenever I see a MINI not only is it more likely that it’s an R56, but also that a middle aged woman is driving it. So a bigger version of their “neat, cute car” will sell. Sad to say, us enthusiasts are outnumbered, and even more sadly, we’re not the ones bringing MINI/BMW their profits, so this R60 will happen, and the brand will continue to dilute to appease the masses of “cute car” craving middle aged women. Realize, they’re trying to make a profit, not history.

    As a personal biased side note: please please MINI consider the speedster concept for production next!

  • Hoover says:

    I’ve posted this before, but this is a variant that I would get behind, and buy. I am not sure about the US market, but I would think that global sales would greatly increase if it was priced right. I just wonder how this would impact the Clubman.

  • Ian says:

    While I think MINI should offer a ONE model and MINI D in the US I don’t think expansion into a “Crossover” would MINImize the brand, but expand it. Variations on a platform of one model isn’t going to do it alone. I just hope, not seeing it, it’s not going to be too large.

    Large SUV’s have been about status more than practicality. Most people don’t need them. A small Crossover 4×4 may not be appreciated by purists, but the classic Mini explored these areas also.

    New micro car? That’s cool too. It will simply strengthen MINI in the long run.

  • dbhouston says:

    Bee1000-

    Thanks and well said. And now, I’ll go drive my tiny MCS with no room for adults in the back seat until I sell it and buy a Clubman with at least room for my kids. (Manual Transmission, of course.)

  • Aussom says:

    If MINI go down this path, could they possibly produce a variant with the Clubman suicide door on both sides to make the back seats more useful / accessible without jeopardising the appeal of a 3 door?? I think this possibility will cover the “middle ground” and generates a suitable compromise between the 5 door SUV and the 3 door coupe.

  • I just want to thank all of you posting your opinions on this article, whatever they may be. This has been some of the most insightful, informed, adult dialogue I’ve read on Motoringfile in a long time. Maybe it’s just nice reading something other than “dude, this sucks”, “dude, you suck”, “dude, where’s my car?”. Thank you.

  • lavardera says:

    yeah, yeah, thats fine, but if you try to hug me I’m going to slug you.

  • C4 says:

    Can I hug you Lav?

  • Chad says:

    I suspect these larger vehicles will reduce resale values of the existing hardtops. I postulate that a lot of the demand for the smaller vehicles is related to the brand itself, not the size. So someone wants a MINI, not necessarily a coupe, but right now they buy the coupe anyway. In the future, the coupe will be of interest only to people who both want a MINI AND want the small size. Future customers who want a MINI may opt for the larger vehicle for practical reasons, and that will reduce demand for the coupe (or even clubman).

  • lavardera says:

    I bet you’re wrong.

  • JonPD says:

    While I doubt the R60 will drop the value of the coupes there is little doubt that it will affect its sales along with the Clubman as there are more than a few people in the SUV crazed US that would opt for the R60 if it were available. Think the one saving grace will be the cost of the R60 that will make this decision much harder as the R60 is no doubt going to be the most expensive base MINI to date.

  • I have an 09 MCS and I am hoping a 4WD R60 will replace my 4Runner.

  • Chris Harte says:

    Since Mini is recognised as its own brand, I think we should see the Mini One in the US, along with the Cooper D, to give more model options. A Mini One in the US could fill in the market where people buy $15k cars. I have no complaints with the R60.

  • MINIme says:

    bee1000 – Thanks for making sense of this. You are right on target with your commentary.

    C4 wrote, “I do not understand the car industry fascination with the CUV/SUV segment.”

    I don’t understand nuclear physics either, but that doesn’t make it wrong…

    JonPD wrote, “Wagons are much more usable than SUVs in great many ways.”

    Name them! Almost anything a wagon can do, an SUV can do better. Try driving through high water in a road-hugging car vs. an SUV with higher ground clearance. If the SUV is equipped with AWD or 4WD (my preference), it is a heck of a lot safer on a slippery surface. Mind you, I realize you can buy wagons with AWD, and that is all well and good, but you can not argue that the sheer utility value of an SUV is exceeded by that of a wagon.

    Does anyone remember the VW Beetle? Was it “ruined” when VW introduced the Type 181 or it’s predecessor, the Kubel Wagen? The two automobiles shared a lot of the same components, yet the “Thing” was an early SUV and the Beetle a coupe. It did not destroy the brand. It gave VW lovers an option. MINI is just giving the people an option. As I have said previously, if this ruins MINI, they weren’t on solid ground to begin with…

  • C4 says:

    MINIme, your answer baffles my intellect. Try harder next time.

  • Hoover says:

    C’mon kiddies…let’s play nice. There is an appeal and a market for the R60 and the wagon.

    The wagon is going to preferable to those who prefer a more “MINI looking” car. I’m hoping that it just looks like an extended wheelbase version of the coupe, but with 4 doors and a hatch. The lower center of gravity is going to be preferable to the enthusiast, and will make the car arguably safer. The extended wheelbase (I can’t recall how extended it really is going to be) in this iteration should make this a better touring car as well. Throw in AWD, and this makes for an extremely usable and safe vehicle for almost all real world driving settings. (This would be my choice, although, if it makes it more affordable, I would probably just stick to a 2WD version).

    The R60 is going to be preferable to those who prefer a little increased visibility, capacity, and ground clearance. I would doubt that the ground clearance offered here would offer much more utility for everyday driving, but, for those that might make occasional, light duty off-road jaunts, or trips up to the snow, it might make more sense.

    And, of course, the way the vehicle looks is going to draw different buyers. For example, I really liked the idea of the Clubman, but certain elements of the design would prevent me from ever buying one. Others dig its quirky elements. As I posted before, I do wonder how the Clubman would be impacted by this model. Would it make sense to continue its production alongside this wagon variant?

  • MINIme says:

    C4- What intellect? I can’t baffle what you do not possess…

  • JonPD says:

    True MINIme that the higher ground clearance of SUVs generally give more clearance than wagons. Then again After living in Colorado for many years and driving through everything from high water to ice storms cannot think of the last time I was stymied by the lack of clearance or matter of fact the need for AWD. I don’t hack AWD but truly its not much more than a panacea to make people feel better most of the time. Its true that there are times and places for a higher clearance AWD, however even those people that live in areas of the world that do have extreme weather might need vehicles like this truly once in a blue moon.

    I can also ask just how many times have we all seen SUVs involved in horrific crashes with smaller cars? laying on their sides or tops due to the invincible AWD along with a raised center of gravity? I don’t think the R60 is likely to be nearly the problem child full sized SUVs are just touting their superiority over other vehicles is a lark. Most wagons tend to carry much less weight than most SUVs and this alone makes them more suitable both with safety on the road and fuel economy.

  • lavardera says:

    All true, but just does not matter at all. Time to get over it.

  • Dr Obnxs says:

    For those of you wondering why Mini has to grow even while under BMW wings, it has to do with chassis dev costs. The Mini chassis isn’t shared with any thing. BMW has no FWD cars, and so Mini chassis dev stands alone. Mini needs to grow the diversity of offerings to reach critical mass, or they have to partner with other companies in chassis/powertrain dev, otherwise dev costs will drive the price of the car out of it’s market. The Tritec and now the Prince engine (and the original Toyota sourced? diesel) all are examples of sharing the dev cost burdon, and the same thing has to happen with chassis.

    What’s most interesting here, is that 500k units a year means a second factory, or more capacity from partners like Styer. The R60 AWD was to add 80k a year in capacity, to the ~240k a year, and that’s almost 200k a year to small for 500k cars a year. At 500k cars a year, you can bet the model range will be larger, as will the dimensions of some of the cars.

    Life will go on……

    Matt

  • C4 says:

    MINIme, I do not waste my time reasoning with idiots of your caliber…

  • indi says:

    However you want to call it: station wagon, SUV, crossover, just give me four doors and a standard hatch (no suicide door and barn door please) and I am fine. I like MINI’s style and driving experience. But I long for increased practicality (yes, style and practicality can co-exist!). I agree with many who said that even a four door version would still make it a small car. Think “MINI” as a brand, rather than “very small” and many of you will get over the “ruining the brand” resentment. When BMW introduced the 3 series, many said the sky was falling, the 3 turns out to be BMW’s biggest success. There are many many MINI lovers out there that have somewhat different needs and preferences. It is in MINI’s best interest to reach out to them and make money at the same time. Yes, evolve, or die. MINI is doing the right thing in terms of product planning. The only complaint that I have is still “the dealership is too far”. It is a big negative from “practicality” standpoint. Whatever cars they come out, I will just hold on till I can reach a dealer within 30 minutes. –in Seattle

  • MINIme says:

    Hey Gabe,

    How about a little intervention regarding C4’s last remark? Come on, what is this turning into?

    I respect everyone’s opinion on the R60. I am just tired of reading it daily…

  • Gabe says:

    The comment section have been shut down because C4’s latest comment. This is a very public warning that these kind of comments will not be tolerated.

Comments are closed.