More Talk of MINI Model Expansion

The internet is abuzz with talk from MINI board member Harald Kreuger’s comments to Inside Line regarding the continued expansion of the MINI lineup. We reported back in January that MINI plans to grow the MINI family to as many as ten members, and Kreuger’s latest comments appear to back that up futher. The story from Inside Line, however, adds new fuel to the fires of speculation.

A smaller MINI

First up, there’s renewed talk of a Rocketman-sized MINI making its way to production. While this wouldn’t be the Rocketman itself, rumor is that something in the 3 meter size range would be the aspiration. While the Rocketman concept platform would be cost-prohibitive for MINI to undertake alone, we reported back in June on BMW’s formal joint venture with Toyota. Once just a rumor, the June announcement outlined several technology sharing initiatives and a “future sports vehicle” platform sharing arrangement. Speculations include the possibility that this platform sharing could be between a future generation iQ and a Rocketman-esque, smaller MINI. However, based on Inside Line‘s reporting, that “future sports vehicle” platform could have applications beyond a smaller hardtop MINI alone.

Some sort of “sports car”

Little is known about what is being referred to here with the term “sports car” other than its philosophical alignment to the original Mazda MX-5 Miata (which was itself based on classic British roadsters from MG and Triumph). Inside Line seems to think the important aspects of that formula “mean small, affordable and a blast to drive.” Does small mean smaller? As in, smaller than the current MINI Roadster? Is MINI teasing the idea of an entry-level, Roadster-like car based on the Rocketman-sized platform? Rumors that BMW might revive the Triumph brand with a small 2-seat convertible have been circulating since 2006, but popped up again with renewed vigor back in March. Could those marque plans have been scrapped in favor of further expanding the MINI brand with the car originally intended for a Triumph reboot? Consider our interest aroused. We’re not, however, going to hold our breath for “entry-level” pricing on any MINI product in the US. That’s a race to the bottom we don’t think MINI really wants to compete in here.


Details are extremely thin on what is meant by a “MINI SUV”, so let’s not panic just yet. In fact, other news sources are still using the term “crossover” to describe this vehicle. Given both the success and continued expansion of the Countryman, when the term “SUV” gets used, what exactly are we talking about here? Is it a truly larger vehicle than the R60? Or are we looking at something more off-road focused rising out of that same platform? Anybody remember the Beachcomber? This was our prediction back in January and for now, we’re sticking with it as this “SUV” they’re talking about. Given that we already know MINI has worked on internal Beachcomber concepts in both five door, and Paceman-like three door variants (nicknamed the Canyon inside MINI), it seems likely that any growth on the part of the Countryman would be up, not out. That said, an extended wheel-base Countryman (a Countryman Clubman?) also seems plausible, but that is purely a guess on my part.

A MINI Sedan

In our recent comprehensive piece about the upcoming F56, we spent quite a bit of time talking about the 5-door variant, the F55. Basically to the hardtop MINI hatch what the four door Golf is to VW. The F55 will take the standard MINI platform and inject it with a healthy dose of practicality without growing its sporting footprint. Is the “sedan” Inside Line is talking about actually the F55, or are we talking about something more fast-backed like a traditional sedan? What comes to mind is the image of a four door MINI with a back end more akin to the Coupe or Roadster — with a traditional boot lid. But like the idea of a stretched Countryman, that’s purely conjecture on my part. Most likely of all is what we reported on back in January:

Code-named “Spacebox” and known as the Traveller (or even the MINI Activity Tourer) the car will be based on the front wheel drive BMW Compactive Sport Tourer or ‘FAST’. The idea (for both but especially the Traveller) is all about increasing practicality and flexibility for a customer who would have had to to move to another brand because they’ve simply run out of space. Both but especially the Traveller will be the most utility oriented of all of BMW or MINI’s upcoming products based off of the UKL1 platform.

What’s unclear is just where each of these rumors and internal MINI concepts overlap. Is this three cars or just one? Either way, we know MINI is working on four and/or five door variants of the traditional MINI Hatch — the flagship platform for MINI.

Expansion means profitability

We’re as tired of repeating it as many of you are of reading it, but the reality is that in order for MINI to be sustainably profitable, the brand and the lineup has to grow. The hardtop hatch will always be the center of that, as will the MINI’s British heritage. In fact, Inside Line is reporting that BMW is yet again considering the presence of a MINI design center in the UK — a facility to anchor the brand’s character right in the heart of its cultural heritage. A London BMW design center was shelved earlier this year, but perhaps that was just a postponement. Regardless, the changes we’re seeing in both platform (the F56) and continued model variations are essential to MINI’s long term growth and financial health.

While not every MINI fan is going to love every new model (where my R60 haters at?), we still think the correct perspective on a ten car MINI lineup is one that ultimately favors driving enthusiasts. For a company as small as MINI, the catch 22 of profitability comes hand-in-hand with market compromise. But in the end, the enthusiasts actually have the most to gain. The criticisms of bloat and un-sporting character that one might level against the Countryman certainly don’t apply to MINI’s most rarified models like the Coupe or the JCW GP. Truth is, though, we wouldn’t have one without the other. MINI wouldn’t be able to offer low volume, performance oriented cars like the Coupe without the highly profitable, albeit less aspirational Countryman. It works the other way ’round as well. Without the sporting character and performance cheek of the Hatch, the Coupe and the Roadster (not to forget the JCW GP), there’d be little MINI family appeal for a car like the Paceman — a car that aspires to even more performance than it will likely deliver.

In that sense, MINI is expanding into a more complicated organism. Those interdependencies and new models are ultimately going to strengthen the MINI bottom line, and I believe, strengthen the MINI brand.

  • 80Spitfire

    Build a new Triumph Sports Car. Keep it simple and affordable and watch the sales climb! I vote for a new Spitfire model. It was the most sold sports car before and would be again.

    • r.burns

      we are not in 1960 anymore, sales would be weak

      • BimmerFile_Michael

        That and very few people have found memories of the brand name as it was a while ago… though it lives on in the bike world.

        • NEWDL

          Exactly! Look at Fiat for god sakes!

        • And the Triumph motorcycle brand is a completely different company, but in that case, that’s a good thing. They’re making some of the best, most interesting bikes around.

      • 80Spitfire

        Kia will build a Roadster and bring it to market in two years or so. Let’s see how weak the sales are. Also, wasn’t the MINI developed in the 60’s? How are sales doing? As far as the Triumph name goes, how many people in the States knew the MINI since it never really sold here in the past. Triumph’s did!

  • Chris Underwood

    “Inside Line seems to think the important aspects of that formula “mean small, affordable and a blast to drive.””

    They forgot “rear wheel drive”…

    • Wouldn’t hold my breath on that one…

      • Chris Underwood

        Not saying they’ll do it, just pointing out that what they build won’t be a sports car if they don’t, and certainly shouldn’t be branded as a Triumph. Maybe they can call it the “MINI Capri”…

        Don’t get me wrong, though – I understand that RWD would eliminate most of the parts sharing with the other MINIs and defeat the whole point of developing an economy of scale.

        Doesn’t stop me from wishing for a small RWD Triumph platform providing a modern take on the cars from the early ’60’s in the way that the R50/53 did the original Mini. Just let me know where to preorder my 2016 TR4 or TR3 Italia…

        • While yes, in order to be fully inline with the old Triumphs it’d need to be RWD I don’t think RWD is requisite for something to be a sports car. The original Mini was FWD when it won Monte Carlo three times. There are MINIs tearing up autocross courses and GRAND-AM tracks all over the country. Sure there are advantages/disadvantages to each arrangement, but if you think there’s no such thing as a FWD sports car, you’re on the wrong website my friend. 😉

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      The rumored Z2 which would have a MINI cousin has switched to FWD for packaging.

      As I commented a few days ago- Toyota has a next gen IQ in Munich with MINI and they are sorting out if a joint platform for the Rocketman could work. It is looking more and more likely the RM will get green lit and feature a small range extending electric drivetrain.

      Some sources continue to indicate that BMW is slowly pulling back on BMWi, as the target economies are not able to build the needed infrastructure for charging etc. The development money will not be wasted as BMW will use it in standard models to offset the costs. One way it to spread it across the lineup.

      Every FWD car can and may feature the plugin drivetrain in the new BMW FWD concept.

      Rear wheel drive will remain BMW exclusive.

  • flyboy2160

    they’ve got this totally bass-ackwards. they need to be figuring out what in the design, manufacturing, or assembly process prevents them from making a decent profit with the numbers they have now.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      Its not possible, no small manufacturer can make it work because they can’t compete on price with the larger companies. Name an independent that can make it on their own in the current market?

      The truth is they have very high overhead by building in Europe (Labor, parts and currency issues) and making a premium product. If the MINI was not a premium product it would compete with the UP! and there is no way on earth they could survive in that low profit high volume world, MINI does not have the purchasing power and VW is a juggernaut thanks to its original decision to be a volume leader.

      The only way is to expand and increase the ability to purchase in bulk from suppliers to lessen costs. That is the reason car companies or any company rather get bigger than smaller from a volume point unless you are true niche maker with high profit per unit (Rolls Royce etc.)

      People that think they can make it with the original lineup are out of touch with reality.

      Even with the Countryman, which is selling in droves, MINI is one of the smallest brands, competing in the most competitive market space on the planet. It is amazing BMW was able to do what they did with the brand thus far but without more scale MINI is doomed and they know it and that is why BMW is building a FWD model (which goes against everything they have stood for) to reach greater commonality and economy of scale with MINI- it is all to save MINI.

      They could always just build in China and hope for the best as well…

  • ulrichd

    Slightly off topic, looking at the Paceman rendering at the top of the page: we now know what a slammed Paceman, with 24″ wheels and 10-series tires would look like.

  • Don Hopings

    Correction: The Miata was based on the original Lotus Elan…

  • Speaking of growing the mini line, what ever happened to the MINI E Scooter?

  • hemisedan

    Speaking of the Mazda MX-5, I had one of those before I got my MIni JCW. Just about the worst riding car I’ve ever had. Anything more than a 50 mile run and my back was absolutely killing me. I finally put it down to my legs extending out too straight. Fun car to drive, handled great, not bad fuel mileage and it was spiriting in acceleration, but not fast at all. Compared to my JCW, well no comparison at all and that is why I’m considering for my next Mini a roadster.

  • Herr26

    The next MINI concept will be a cross-over destined to show how BMW and MINI can co-exist. Entirely based on the Active Tourer the MINI variant goes with familiar MINI aspects such as enhanced MINI family design and quirky features such as club doors but with the emphasis on space and light. As the vehicle utilises an allround glasshouse and large panorama roof for an enhanced spatial feel It is the vehicle destined to become the MINI TRAVELLER and follows the same creative approach as the BMW by re-interpreting an existing concept into their own brand philosophy. Whilst the BMW aims for a very dynamic appearance with intelligent thinking the MINI will appeal more to the MINI heartland and especially those who need more space and flexibility. One clever addition is the incorporating of a Rolls-Royce type wrap around lounge seat in the rear. To describe the MINI it is very much like an enlarged clubman and alongside the Active Tourer you would never guess they are practically the same car . But that is BMW’s intentions that MINI and BMW can and will co-exist. Appearances will differ as will how they will drive as BMW sets out to show that MINI and BMW can co-exist. Both the MINI Traveller and BMW Active Tourer enter a market that is growing as more european customers are turning to cross-overs in needs of greater flexibility. The Mercedes-Benz B-Klasse has shown that premium can work within such a segment and the two concept attack by BMW and MINI has spurned Audi into action as the segment is expected to grow by around 45-50% and BMW expects both the MINI and BMW to take a significant result from that growth. The interesting aspect in terms of design language of the BMW Active Tourer is that if you shrink the car and change the front and rear end you get a very close look of the next MINI’s sister the City Compact The MINI sedan is so moving ahead with some quarter scale models being built for first evaluations. Looking like a mixture of Maserati and even a mini-Rolls-Royce the car is advancing with some typical MINI ideas being expanded on as slimmer, elongated MINI-esque lights at the front or the conventional cornered lights , trapezoid rear lights and floating roof , its far too early to get a definite answer on what it will look like , but some of the ideas are so far overly impressive , some even incorporating the rear hinged doors which bodes to my impression of a MINI Rolls-Royce. The stumbling block here is what to do with BMW. As BMW are currently at work on a elongated four door of the upcoming 2er Coupe model to bring into line amongst the 6er Gran Coupe and upcoming 4er Gran Coupe aimed at the Mercedes CLA and Audi A3 Sedan. A FWD 4dr BMW would be counter-productive as the appeal of a RWD model would be far greater. The next BMW FWD model is an intelligent approach on the SAV,MPV and Touring . This can fully be described as a cross-over because it features the robust solidity of an SAV in its appearance , The space feel of an MPV and the cargo capability as a Touring and you can add Coupe to that mix because of its dynamic sloping rear end. Dubbed the F.amily A.ctivity S.ports T.ourer or FAST for short it aims to offer an intelligent approach to a cross-over which combines every need with optional xDrive . One thing learned is that there are a lot more customers using their cars for more than their basic needs. In todays market it has shown that customers now shun conventional concepts in light of more unconventional choices, such as MPVs over Sedans , Crossovers instead of hatches and so on. FAST offers a variation in one concept with universal appeal. FAST will also be the first BMW model (after BMW i3) to offer rear hinged doors as the FAST shares with a similar MINI Concept which I originally thought it was the Paceman is actually the MINI Activity Tourer . The MINI Activity Tourer brings the more raked look from the PACEMAN , but to a five door concept. Again sharing with the BMW FAST it aims to offer a variation on the MINI theme by offering a more sporting space concept but developed for a more active lifestyle. For a more stylish MINI appearance rear hinged doors will open up the cabin for easy entry/exit on the beach or on the slopes. The MINI Sports car idea is a variation on the theme of actual Coupe/Roadster and how that for the second generation and in that the whole MINI family. Is that if you take the Countryman it has proved that MINI can stand alone in seperate individual concepts. And now is the opportunity for the MINI family to expand further on styling and individuality. The current MINI , Coupe , Clubman and Roadster are all variants of the same look. the next generation should form their own unique identity but still be recognisable as a MINI. The Countryman has achieved this and the replacements for the MINI Coupe and Roadster should also follow this by making them completely distinguishable from the conventional standard MINI with more individuality and sportier styling. MINI’s unique selling point is that they are cars with character , they expand on ideas in an unconventional way and yet they deliver cars which drive with a fun-factor missing from many proposed sporting hatches or coupes. The next generation through their enhanced sharing with BMW retains that fun factor with a dynamic edge but never forgetting that go-kart like character. BMW are aiming at a more sporting edge aimed at the more premium end of the market , despite the concept whether it is FWD or a Active Tourer etc it has too feel as direct and communicative as a BMW. BMW knows that for this new generation of compact vehicles is that for everything to work they have to be everything the other is not and that individuality is just as important as design. Something the engineers have achieved, I cannot wait till you find out how this jigsaw goes together.

  • piper

    Another bug-eyed Austin Healy Sprite … that’s what we need! The yellow and black MINI SUV looks good wearing off-road shoes. All that’s missing is “power by CAT and heavy-duty, planetary, reduction gear-driven wheels like the big mine haulers use to tote marshmallow ore!”

    I’m still cheering for Rocketman. It could represent a move in the right direction for MINI. After all, MINI is all about being “mini,” and not about becoming the biggest loser among automobile manufacturing “heavy weights” that have chosen to abandon their heritage. MINI has a great opportunity to celebrate its heritage with the Rocketman. Seize it!