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MF Exclusive: MINI’s Product Roadmap Revealed

In 2001 BMW debuted the R50 MINI Cooper and MINI One to great acclaim. However tucked away in much of the press coverage of the launch was the fact that BMW didn’t expect to even break even on the development and launch costs over the course of the models life-cycle. The problem were economies of scale and the fact that the MINI was a bespoke platform designed from the ground up to be shared with nothing else on the market (save for the Chrysler developed engine). The writing was on the wall even then. BMW needed multiple variants of the MINI to make the brand stand on its own financially.

Fast forward eight years. MINI has successfully launched it’s second generation hatchback and along the way added a convertible and the long wheel base clubman – all based on the core R56 platform (itself based on the R50). But BMW is just getting started. This fall will see the debut of the R60 crossover (likely named Countryman) that will once again feature a relatively bespoke platform. However, even with the R60 sharing components with the R55/R56, BMW intends to maximize the development costs of the new platform but spinning off several variants.

The first of these will be shown in concept form likely at the Detroit Autoshow in early 2010. The concept will resurrect the Moke name and feature a stripped down interior and an exterior devoid of a full roof. Imagine a small version of the four door Jeep Wrangler and you have an idea of what’s in store.

Also on the drawing board is an R60 derived four door GTI type of vehicle. Lower to the ground and without the faux off-road baggage that the Countryman will be saddled with, the SpaceBox concept (as it is called internally) is intended to move the MINI brand into more mainstream waters and is aimed primarily at the European market.

Then there’s the sedan concept that takes the Spacebox and refines it for US tastes. Little is known about the idea other than the look will feature a notchback design and a more conventional trunk.

Finally there are whispers that MINI is considering the spinning off a small truck off of the R60 platform. Similar in concept to the MINI truck built in the late 60’s, the idea is to create an ultra efficient utility vehicle that combines the fun of the current MINI range with surprisingly utility.

With these concept BMW is testing the waters and ultimately the strength of the MINI brand. There’s little question that most of the these concepts won’t see production. However MINI fully intends to build off the R60 platform and spread development costs around as much as possible. That means we will see the range expand dramatically over the years.

To counter-act this BMW is also planning the release of the R56 based Speedster and Coupe concepts (the speedster to be shown in Frankfurt in September) along with a propose MINI branded Project i vehicle.

Once finished we will likely see MINI’s product matrix grow dramatically.

Here’s what we know in terms of launch dates so far (each links to its section on MF):

Here’s what we don’t know:

As always stay tuned to MF for more details as we get them.

Written By: Gabe

  • http://chrisbevan.com chris

    FWIW – Mini have a precedent for a notchback / booted hatch / sedan – the Riley Elf/Wolseley Hornet.

  • zm

    inevitable, and i have no qualms. just b/c bmw makes the hideous x6, doesn’t mean i wouldn’t buy an m3 because of it.

    to each their own, and you would think the mini community would be respectful of that POV. that said, i didn’t buy a jcw mini for the lifestyle or community; i bought it b/c it’s by far the best car to have in dc traffic.

    lastly, i wouldn’t be caught dead in a clubman. :)

  • bee1000

    I feel sorry for the dealers. If their facilities are anything like Brecht’s they don’t have nearly enough space for a diverse product range. I suppose if any of these come about and are successful everybody will be making money and expansion wouldn’t be an issue.

    I’m a defender of Mini’s building whatever cars it likes, but if the range really did expand to the full measure discussed here, it would make the core hatchback somehow less desirable. Sure a BMW M3 isn’t less of a car because of the various X cars, but it also doesn’t attract me the way something like an Elise does.

    I guess Mini is hoping the hatchback and what it stands for will be the halo car that makes all the more dowdy Minis look cool, but the reverse will also be true, I think. The hatch won’t be any less fun to drive, but it will be less interesting coming from a company that builds sedans and crossovers and Jeep(r)-like things.

  • zm

    @bee: point well taken.

    you’re right that a brand is the sum of it’s parts. if kia came out with a jcw/elise killer, would i buy it? probably, but i’d still have in the back of my head that i’m driving a kia.

    luckily, mini won’t fall into that scenario. for the mini die hards that bitch about the upcoming lineup, point me to another brand that you would unhesitatingly buy every model they produce. we’ll just have to see how the balance b/n growing a business and enthusiast appeal plays out for mini.

    on a diff note, my gf just bought a 2010 mazda3 5-door grand touring w/ tech package–nav, adaptive steer xenon, keyless fob w/ push button, bluetooth, 10-speaker bose w/ sub… what a great car for $23k!

  • Melis

    I like the current line up of MINIs, the Cooper, Cabrio, and Clubman. The Countryman, I might wind up liking, but I just wish they would bring a Diesel Countryman here to keep up the MINI lineup’s awesome MPG. I’m most excited about a R60 GTI-style 4 door. Four real doors will open up the market for MINI, IMHO.

    I love my R56 MCSa, and I like what they have now. I’m interested to see the future offerings, and seriously, everyone here likes MINIs, but if they make something we don’t like, don’t hate the brand, just don’t buy that model.

  • zm

    “point me to another brand that you would unhesitatingly buy every model they produce.”

    point me to ‘a’ brand, not ‘another’, since we’re discussing this issue in regards to MINI.

    and, the lotus’ of the world don’t count. :) the non mainstream brands have the luxury of making exclusive models–but, that’s what keeps them non mainstream. that dilemma seems to be the core of this debate as mini evolves.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1046757782 Peter Braun

    Yes! A Speedster, a Moke and a Pick-Up truck! Now, we’re going back to the original success story of the Mini and all it’s variations! Yipee! I think it is a sound decision on the leadership’s part!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1046757782 Peter Braun

    Those all are gonna be a lot of fun to play with!

  • cct1

    zm, I think the “point me to brand that you’d unhesitangly buy….” hits the crux of the issue–MINI IS going mainstream. Much of MINI’s appeal to the first generation buyers was the uniqueness–not in a highbrow “look at what I’m driving” type of way (ala Porsche), but the desire for something totally different, a kind of “this car is cool to me, either you get it or you don’t” type of mentality.

    I think that a fair amount of that has been lost, and the second generation is appealing to a broader, somewhat different audience. Necessary to keep the brand alive I suppose, but sometimes when something is gained, something also is lost…

    Yeah, I know these sentiments aren’t exactly encouraged around here anymore, and I don’t post here nearly as much as I used to because of it; I guess it’s just another sign that some of the original quirkiness of the MINI and it’s community has lost out to conformity…

  • Volkan

    cct1… The point that you illustrated is the dilemma that the car companies have to deal with -especially the ones that cater to enthusiasts (e.g., MINI, Porsche, BMW, etc). In my opinion, MINI is doing this in a well-balanced way (i.e., keeping the brand alive and enthusiasts happy) with the line up that Gabe posted here. Of course, you’ll find people who hate R60, but you’ll also find people who perceive the coupe and the hatch impractical. This is the spectrum of the buyers.

    When R56 was released, almost everyone at my work -and many people I spoke to at that time- thought it was the same as R53 (even though it shared almost nothing with R53). If you put the enthusiasts aside, the general public still sees the MINI line up as one hatch, one cabrio and Clubman since 2002 in the US. Adding more options will definitely make the brand more viable. Again, whether this is going mainstream or not could be discussed ad nauseam.

    Looking forward to more MINI variants on the road. It will be more fun and refreshing.

  • gokartride

    BMW’s motivation makes sense regarding management of MINI as a brand and yes, the customer base will probably expand as desired, but most will have a MINI in mind for their purchase….not a Mini. Ties to the classic Mini are evaporating fast, and other cars are starting to capture aspects of Mini-ness even more than MINI. It has meant a parting of the ways for me.

  • cct1

    Volkan, points well taken, and there are things that I like with the expansion.

    I admit, I prefer the R53 to the R56, but the R56 is a nice continuation of the brand. The Clubman, although not my cup of tea, harkens back to the Traveler, kind of cool. The R60….That just doesn’t fit…

    I like the speedster concept personally, especially that picture above, which is much nicer than the yellow mock up. But I’m left scratching my head at the demographic–Cabrio’s aren’t selling that well, at least in the Midwest, and it’s a predominantly female demographic. Apparently the Speedster is aimed more toward males–but with the Z2 coming out, that’s going to be a tough sell to that group, unless the prices are way, way apart.

    As for the Moke someone mentioned, that will never happen…

    The pick-up I’m ok with too–but I think that will have an even narrower niche than the speedster. Time will tell.

    But with all this expansion comes the threat of brand dilution–it’s happend so, so quickly, I would have much rather these things come generation by generation, would have made it special.

  • Gary

    MINI already makes a current pickup. Just look at those Red Bull MINI’s… take the advertising can out and you have a two seater with a mini (pun intended?) pickup space. (http://dckaleidoscope.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/014.jpg)

    … and you can find a variety of shots like (http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_xdmZbtZHYhg/SUj_YMi9MRI/AAAAAAAAHSc/hTloNhe76sQ/s400/truck2-2-03-07.jpg) which may be legit or just some good photoshop work…

    Regardless, at least gives you an idea of what it MIGHT look like based on the current style.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=550247827 Aaron Woolsey

    I’m waiting for the MINI “purists” to start tossing their pillows around here. I understand these initiatives but what I’m more worried about is the evolution of the coupe. The R50-R53 is, in my mind, a classic and it will be in another 15 years, considered a gem of its time.

    The R56 bulked up on the R53. I worry that as they evolve the coupe, they’ll take the R56 as a start point, add an inch here, a centimeter there and 10 years from now, we’ve got ourselves a mess. If they want to bulk things up, the R60 platform is great for that. But please, leave the coupe small, and keep the original, the Mini, in mind as that car evolves.

    It was only a matter of time before the concept of a MINI ute came to the fore. The problem is that while back in the day small pickups were all over the place, in today’s largest auto markets, there’s no market for a mini pickup/coupe utility.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    @Aaron Woolsey: I don’t disagree on the R50/R53… but the R56 is actually a lighter car. I can’t bring myself to think of it as “bulked up”.

  • cct1

    The weights are pretty close; the R56 is slightly lighter, but the R56 does LOOK quite a bit bigger, I see where Aaron is coming from. Maybe had there never been an R53, it would be a moot point, the R56 would look small to everything else out there, but putting the two side by side, the R53 looks significantly more compact (at least to my eyes).

    But there’s no getting around the Pedestrian laws, really nothing BMW can do about it. Although if they didn’t have to accomadate them, I suspect the R56 would look less bloated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1256473616 Sherwin Smith

    Shortly after I bought my 2003 Cooper (in 2003), I received a survey asking, “what do you think about these concepts…” Even then they were talking about all of the variations discussed in this article. “A MINI truck? Really?” I said. I never thought it would come to fruition. That was before I began to understand the intricacies of the auto manufacturing world.

    (Have to +1 bee1000’s comment about there not being enough space for so many variants at most of the dealers I’ve been to). Time will tell. More power to em! :)

  • RJ

    @zm

    To your point:

    you’re right that a brand is the sum of it’s parts. if kia came out with a jcw/elise killer, would i buy it? probably, but i’d still have in the back of my head that i’m driving a kia

    Actually, you may remember that Kia already ‘did’ the Elise of its day. Back in the mid 90s, the owner of Lotus sold the mfg rights of the FWD Lotus Elan (still a darn good handling car) to Kia, and it was promptly resold as a Kia Elan, albeit with a normally aspirated engine, not the turbo 1.6 Isuzu-Lotus engine in the original FWD Elan.

    Road & Track had a story on it…at one time, it was supposed to come to the US.

    At the right price, I would have gladly snapped up a Lotus Elan in Kia Elan clothing!! :)

  • zm

    a kia elan? are you kidding me?!

    and i thought i knew cars… i’ve got to look this up.

  • zm

    hah–there it is on wikipedia. what do ya know…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kia_Elan

    thanks for the heads up, RJ.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1046757782 Peter Braun

    Aaron – “The R50-R53 is, in my mind, a classic and it will be in another 15 years, considered a gem of its time.” I dearly love the new MINI, but it never even came close to the overall impact of the original Mini. Get a grip.

  • Aaron

    Hey Peter,

    Fair point, the original Mini is perhaps a classic for all time. My point was that the new MINI is a classic of its time. That is, of our time. I never said it was better than the original. I only meant that in 2025, it will finally pass that threshold in age to be considered a classic and it most certainly will be one.

    Gabe – yeah, the R56 is bit lighter. I meant the look is bulkier than the R53. The dimensions are slightly larger as well. Motoringfile had a comparison review a few years back that had photos. The R56 just looks bigger: bigger side mirrors, bigger hood, bigger headlights, bigger bumpers, bigger foglights, bigger grill. That’s what I meant by bulking up.

  • Jon

    Aaron,

    I agree with you. The R56 is noticeably bigger. A buddy at work just got an R56, and parks next to me every day, so I get to see a side-by-side comparison, and my R53 looks smaller. Not saying in a good or bad way, but they’re just noticeably different.

  • http://themanpurse.blogspot.com Seth L

    The USDM is desperate need for a small pickup. I really hope the mini ‘ute makes it.

  • SFRedMCc

    By making all the individual design components larger, the designers made the overall R56 (which we all know is larger) look about the same size as the R53; that is until you put them next to each other. It really is effective design trick until you see the R56 next to another car; then the new MINI looks a lot larger. My Clubman looks “huge” next to my sister’s 1992 Accord.

  • goat

    SFRedMCc – you are right that this is what the designers TRIED to do. But complex 3D design cannot simply be scaled up or down with same in-person effect; thus, the designers did not succeed in making the R56 look the size of the R50/R53. The sheetmetal is “puffy” and overly smooth everywhere, from the relatively featureless hood to the “caboose” rear end. The ride height did the car no favours either – a lowered R56 finally starts to “look right” when the wheelgap is reduced closer to what it was on the first-generation car. I think the refreshed “face” coming early next year should remedy some of this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=561823790 Brendon Ziegenbein

    I think with our president’s “genius” energy savings program by 2016 all manufactures have to have an average of 37mpg i believe. So to bring mini up they are going to have to bring the Diesel to the market so they dont get fined and pull out of the states.

    (catch the sarcasm)

    i like the roadster but do believe the countrymen, clubman and 4 door mini should be sent to the moon…..They are not Mini’s

  • C4

    @Peter Braun:

    who cares? The classic Mini for all intents and purposes was, is, and will always be nothing but a novelty/hobby car in the US. Not really practical, reliable or safe for daily driving duty.

    And yes, I think the R53 will be very sought after in years and decades to come. It will be the Classic Mini of the 21st century.

  • JonPD

    Should be interesting to see how this works out for Mini over the years to come. I do have to say that a 3k lbs Moke would have me rolling in laughter for days.

    I wonder just how many cars they need to produce to reach the profitability that BMW wants? One small issue I see is that largely speaking even with a variety of MINI’s they will likely draw the same buyers that would have bought one of the other cars. No doubt their will be some measure of new blood to the MINI community but I am betting that the total percentages will likely not be truly buyers that would have bought a MINI anyways

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MINI Model Cheat Sheet

1st Gen MINI
R50: One & MC Hatch
R52: All 1st Gen MINI Convt.
R53: MCS Hatch
2nd Gen MINI
R55: Clubman
R56: Hatch
R57: Convertible
R58: Coupe
R59: Roadster
R60: MINI Crossover
R61: MINI Crossover Coupe
3rd Gen MINI
F54: Clubman
F55: Five Door Hatch
F56: Hatch
F57: Convertible
F60: MINI Crossover
F58: Traveller

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