BMW & MINI’s Small Car Strategy Revealed

(The following story was compiled with the help of Herr26 and BimmerFile)

BMW’s small car strategy is key to the automakers future success. Based on-going research BMW is expecting premium segment growth to primarily occur in small city car’s , C-Segment Compact class, the D-Segment Small Sedan class and the small-mid sized SUV class.

Based on this BMW have invested in these three segments more than any other over the last few years. For the small City Cars it will be a three way attack with both the MegaCity vehicle, small BMW and the MINI. The C-segment is the 1er and D-Segment will be the 3er. Since the eruption of the global financial crisis one pattern discovered is that in most cases especially for BMW is that owners were downsizing. That means instead of buying the new 5 Series they’re looking at a 3er and instead of an X5 they’re looking at the X3 etc.

It is this line of thinking that has prompted BMW to invest in smaller vehicles. But beyond that BMW’s research has also shown that people will want/expect more functionality out of their cars and would want various concepts to suit their requirements.

Because of this the next 1 Series will follow the 3 Series with four different body styles. Especially with it’s flexible backbone structure BMW will create two new 1 Series variants with the F20 generation; Z2 in Coupe and Roadster (rumors suggest these have been green-lit but BMW executive) and the 1er Gran Turismo and Compactive Sport Tourer (which are in final feasibility studies). Beyond these BMW is also investigating several other concept for a late lifecycle release.

The F30 3 Series will add a Gran Turismo model but BMW is also researching other concepts such as a Gran Coupe, Shooting Brake and Advanced Sport Tourer.

The MegaCity vehicle (likely using the sub-brand iSetta) will initially arrive as a five door four seater , followed by a three door two seater. If they prove successful BMW will then move on to a small Activity Vehicle as well as a Micro-Sports Car and Roadster.

With MINI BMW have successfully grown a one car brand into a four car line-up. But they’re not stopping at four. With the launch of the MINI Coupe next August and Roadster in March of 2012, MINI is aggressively filling out niches within the brand. And as we’ve reported on MotoringFile previously, MINI is also investigating other models such as a (non Megacity based) city car (rumored to be named MIN-i or MINI Minor) and the long rumored MINI progressive activity vehicle nicknamed the SpaceBox. And now with the strong public reaction to the MINI Beachcomber concept, BMW is considering creating a three door off-road coupe based off of the Countryman.

Because each of these cars are heavily based off a donor platform (either a 1 Series, MCV or Countryman) they are projected to be very cost effective. Each car would share engines, powertrains and technology making for a easy way for BMW produce new products quickly and cost effectively.

One example of this is the MINI Coupé scheduled to be released in about a years time. While the car was made possible by using a donor platform (the R57), MINI recognizes that it must have a unique feel and even better handling than the standard MINI. The idea is to make it the most nimble and chuck-able new MINI ever. Think of it as the 1M of the MINI world.

The first results of this strategy are certainly looking positive. The MINI Countryman’s production allotment is already 50% sold without production even starting (and that’s without the US market even launching the vehicle). On the BMW side the X1 has seen similar success with over 40,000 sold since it’s launch in 2009.

The one thing that won’t change is what MINI is. BMW is convinced that MINI cannot stay true to its heritage if a variant grows in size beyond four meters in length. So while the range may be expanding, the vehicles themselves won’t forget the core principles of the brand.

The same may not be able to be said for BMW’s 1 Series. Yes the next generation F20 1 Series will be rear will drive based. However BMW’s MINI twin (which will be marketed as a variation of the 1 Series) will be front wheel drive and will take the brand into an entirely new realm.

Despite this it’s easy to think about BMW and MINI focusing on small cars as exciting for enthusiasts. Quick, nimble and efficient, these are some of the attributes of the best MINIs and BMWs from years past. It’s encouraging to know that they’ll be playing a large part in each brand’s future as well.

  • KLF23

    I’m looking forward to seeing the MIN-i. I really hope they go ahead with it. I don’t know about the name though – I expect it will change.

    Could somebody do a diagram/timeline to show when each car/concept is expected along with the platform it is based on? If the MIN-i is not megacity based, what will it be based on?

    It’s a bit confusing (Isetta, MIN-i, micro-sports car, megacity, BMW’s MINI twin etc.) and a diagram might help.

  • Rocketboy

    Please do not call it an iSetta. It’s not an iPhone, a iPod, or a iMac. Just iStopIt.

  • eto

    Great information about the plans for the Coupé. I’ve never been a fan of the Countryman, but it does look good in the last picture.

  • This should quell the fears of those who have preached on about the BMW bloat over the last little while…

  • Callahan

    In my opinion the Countryman will be the end of the Clubman after the 2013 refresh. I don;t think they will carry the clubman in to Gen 3. My MA also agrees with me for what its worth.

  • Brian

    Yep Clubman = no Gen 3. Spacebox will replace it.

  • goat

    Can’t wait to test drive the MINI Coupe… I am hoping that from a driving perspective it will provide all the continually disappointed Honda fans with a successor to the thrills the early 1990’s CRX Si offered… but with stability and comfort at higher speeds that only a MINI could offer in such a small package. It should be potent in JCW form but if the handling is as good as I am expecting then the normally aspirated Cooper model may turn out to be the sweetheart of the bunch!

    News of the next-gen BMW 1 “Z2” is good to hear too!

    As for the eventual FWD BMW, “I quietly turn my back to you Mister FWD BMW!” 🙂

  • Evan

    Let’s just hope BMW/MINI either ditches the electric power steering for an actual feedback-providing hydraulic rack or by some miracle makes the electric steering feel as tactile and connected as its hydraulic racks. Maybe the LCI R56 will show us that this is possible. And if not, please spare the 3er from the same lifeless helm granted to the new 5er.

    I’m also psyched for smaller, more fun models. Not psyched about a FWD BMW. And will have to find a way to get a Clubman before they go away…

  • I am waiting patiently and counting down the days til I can pick up my Coopster. It sounds like it is exactly what I want and need from MINI right now!

    If I win the lottery/come upon a cash windfall the first thing I will do is bribe MINI to give me an early delivery of the Coopster 😉

  • goat

    @Evan – Fuel savings are small but real with electric power steering, so unlikely BMW will return to fully hydraulic racks. (I’m with you on steering feel though… it is tough to get an electric rack to have appropriate feel, OTOH recall that good steering feel was a rare thing to find even when all cars had hydraulic racks!)

  • herr26

    BMW have commenced internal previews for the MINI derived BMW internally known as One-Zero-One (1001) And possibly a feasible name for the car fitting in with the 1er that many see as a modern 2002, 1001 would fit under the F20 which will see sDrive added to that series to seperate them from the front wheel drive car.

    One key thing about this project is that the designers and key engineers have been particular in not straying into MINI’s territory.

  • Bill in Iowa

    I have to agree on the Clubman deal. I’ve always thought that looked a bit out proportion. Just me, remember. If Mini comes out with a 2-door Countryman, that will seal the Clubman, and then add the Coopster, that woulc cover most bases. If they could get the weight down, I would consider a JCW Countryman 2-door.

  • I like the MINI Cooper Clubman. If your not into taking your car to the track, and all you want is a very nice small car, then it’s perfect. One can actually carry more than 2 people into, and it looks better with a roof rack on it. I think there will still be a market for the Clubman even after the Countryman comes out too.

  • goat

    Another vote for the Clubbie. I actually prefer it to the R56 hatches, both aesthetically and philosophically.

  • eto

    I realized why I like that picture of the Countryman more… it is not an S and doesn’t have they odd scowl from the interpretation of the S hood scoop in the top grill.

  • Goat: Another vote for the Clubbie. I actually prefer it to the R56 hatches, both aesthetically and philosophically.

    And that is why I chose the Clubbie over the hatch! Even though I absolutely don’t need the extra room (hence me waiting for the Coopster!)

    By the way…. Thanks Herr26 for your contribution in this article 😀

  • Scott Hogsett

    I prefer the Clubman over the R56 as well, would never have considered a Mini if the Clubman wasn’t available. Came from an X3 and needed more space.

  • JonPD

    Always interesting to read your comments Herr26. Its always great to have a little insight behind the scene.

    I am interested in how BMW is going to keep the 1001 separate from MINI. We already have some issue since the R56/R57 jcw is so close to the price of the 1 series. I am also sure an eventual R60 jcw will also be close to a X1. I know there is always more items that keep them separated than just the price point but it does cause a lot of unneeded cross shopping.

  • SFRedMCc

    I really prefer the “barn doors” on my Clubbie over a regular hatch, since I typically only need to open one door, which I think is a lot easier than opening a full-width hatch.

    My big complaint is they provided only one interior light and it’s on the left side; so when it gets blocked by a shopping bag or whatever, you don’t have any light on the right side. If they wanted to cut costs by only providing one light, they should have at least put it on the “right” side.

  • Dave

    Clubman and the Countryman draw different demographics of buyer.

    While I may own a Clubman, I have no use for the Countryman…it’s more than what I need and lacks the original MINI flavor…..why not just by a Subie Forrester or an Outback ?