MotoringFile/WRR Interview: Dr. Kay Segler

If you want to know the current and future state of MINI, you go to the top. And that’s what we did at NAIAS in talking with Dr. Kay Segler. We spoke to Dr. Segler about everything – there was no subject off limits. We started with JCW and the proliferation of the brand throughout the MINI range. As it stands now there’s a JCW model for every MINI model. But Dr. Segler was quick to point out that that won’t always be the case and they want to build a strong sub-brand by keeping it perhaps a little more exclusive moving forward. Yet they also want to broaden the sales of the JCW style packages across the range – much like M has done so successfully for BMW. There’s also a hint of something interesting to come if you listen carefully.

We then move onto the Paceman and how he believes it’s not a niche vehicle. No surprise there, but it’s interesting to hear how Dr. Segler talks about the Paceman and what he believes makes it uniquely different from all other MINIs.

What about the Rocketman? Dr. Segler walked us through why the Rocketman was important for the brand – even if it won’t be built. It’s a fascinating and candid thing to hear from the head of MINI. If you love the Rocketman concept, this makes the interview a must listen.

And what about a smaller MINI? In the research that MINI has done customers are looking for the typical MINI performance but more connectivity and more space in future models. Yes more space. Does this mean the next generation R56 hatch to be more spacious? Dr. Segler point-blank says “yes I guess so”. However given the language barrier etc (and listening to it again) we can’t help but wonder if Dr. Segler is hinting at the new five door MINI that will be coming shortly after the F56 launches.

The shared UKL platform that MINI is co-developing with BMW has had a number of benefits but there’s also a potential downside. Dr. Segler talks about that and why sharing the UKL platform with BMW has been such a boon for MINI – especially with technology, engines and efficiency.

Then there’s the GP. According to Kay Segler the GP is pretty much sold out worldwide. Clearly where it’s not is the US due to the late launch. But it’s interesting to hear how well the new GP has been received elsewhere.

Finally the diesel question. We put it to Dr. Segler – when will we see diesels in the US. And he answered us very clearly. We will not see diesels in the current models as MINI hasn’t engineered them to accept the urea tank needed for the US. However, MINI is planning on bringing diesels to the US in the next generation models.

And what about hybrids? MINI is looking at plugin hybrids due to weight savings over standard hybrids.

As you can tell it’s a wide ranging interview that is a must listen for any MINI fan.

MotoringFile/WRR Interview:

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  • Nice job. You always do a great interview, Gabe.

    What transfixed me? “Comment number one” and “comment number two”, beginning at 8:30. Knowing counts for something, right?

  • ulrichd

    “… customers are looking for the typical MINI performance … and more space …” R50/53 enthusiasts are looking elsewhere. How much are those Abarths?

    • Don’t presume to speak for all of us. I’ve driven the Abarth and I’d still rather have any current MINI if I were to trade out my R53.

      • ulrichd

        Fair enough. This R50/53 enthusiast is looking elsewhere (but I will hold off until the F56 sheds most of its cladding).

        • Well there’s always the Scion FR-S and its terrifically low-rent interior. 😉

      • R.Burns

        That you do not understand the weakness of the chassis is not surprising for an American, but it means too that you like truck driving position, you like the flabby gear shift, and so on…

    • R.Burns

      Once for all forget the Abarth, cheaper than Mini in all points including the drive feeling

  • christomapher

    Segler alludes that The F56 will be following the same trend/demand as the Mk. 7 Golf: larger on the outside as well as inside. It is really disheartening that even icons like the Golf and Cooper hatch aren’t immune to the dreaded model bloat. In their defense, with tech being what it is these days, I’m sure the F56 will not weigh more, and it may even weigh less than its predecessor (just like the Golf), but gosh darnit, it’s called MINI!

    • We had some separate conversations with him about this and what I was able to gather was that in the case of the F56, the intent is still to keep it as small as possible, but to work to maximize the interior space — more so than currently even. This is right out of the original Mini playbook. Separately, MINI will be looking for ways to add interior space and practicality through other models such as a four door or five door small MINI which, like the Clubman before them, will grow in one direction or another to accommodate for that added interior practicality.

      • christomapher

        This is promising and makes sense. Did he speak on anything about the styling? I think I’ve read somewhere that they may try to go back to the R50/53 level of style and accoutrement, as opposed to the cutesy yet slightly duller (in a mainstream kind of way) front styling of the R56.

        • Nothing was said about styling with Dr. Segler, however I’ve had conversations with MINI contacts who’ve seen the car in person and what they’ve told me is that the new design is pretty striking. It’s a significant departure from anything we’ve seen previously. It was described as unmistakably MINI, but a completely new interpretation of the MINI design language. It will bear a much stronger resemblance to the Rocketman concept than it will the R50/R53.

        • christomapher

          Thanks, Nathaniel and Gabe. The design language of the Rocketman is kind of all over the place, but I have faith that MINI will sort it out when using it on the F56. The other thing that I’m really interested in has to do with the platform sharing. I am very hopeful that the NVH level of the new MINIs improves significantly. I wonder if I should even dream of the F56 having Golf-levels of refinement. Perhaps because the platform will also be a used with the next 1-series (right?), it will be of even higher quality. Or, will we be hearing creaks, squeaks and rattles after only ~1 year into ownership like MINIs of present and yore. Guess I have high optimism all around.


        • ulrichd

          That’s a tough call. The average motorist, in any car segment, will tell you there is no such thing as too much refinement. The enthusiast will say otherwise. At what point does refinement become isolation, and road compliance and softer ride looses the go-kart handling. After six years in an R53 I went to a 1-series. While the initial impression of silky smooth engine and overall refine were great, it wore off and I started to miss the “feel” of the Mini. For a manufacturer that a tough nut to crack.

        • Think Rocketman.

        • Chilly

          I heard the same thing from some Motoring Advisors at last weeks Boston Auto Show. They also said the base Cooper will no longer have the chrome slats, I was really disappointed to hear that.

        • ulrichd

          The front styling of the R56, and I agree it suffers in comparison to the R50/53, is a result of the new EU pedestrian impact standards. It will be interesting to see how designers will resolve this on the F56. If they are going with the Rocketman front end, it’s a thumbs up from me.

      • Nathaniel,

        I take you’re saying DKS retracted the statements he clearly made beginning at 8:30?

        To my ear it was crystal clear: BMW/MINI is designing a slightly larger hatchback and larger forthcoming MINI models, all based on what his customers are telling him: “customers want more space.” DKS made an effort to point out that the space he was referring to was to be designed into both the MINI’s interior and its exterior.

        I’ve been making a fool of myself off and on here on the topic of the ever-growing MINI for too long. But until this interview, I was only going on the fact that every single MINI since the R50/53 has been a bigger vehicle. Some only slightly, others significantly. Some of s actually crave a smaller MINI. The roadmap’s even worse in this regard.

        When the slightly bizarre Rocketman concept was released, then well into my dark period of cynicism, I had to eat my words: BMW hadn’t strayed entirely from AI’s brilliant concoction. Unfortunately, that dream has been dashed.

        No, a MINI based on someone else’s platform doesn’t count. I would rank that right up there with BMW’s decision to pump synthetic engine noise into the cabin of the 5-Series, and to a lesser degree some hobbyist’s penchant for dropping VTech engines into classic Minis 🙂

        Alas, now we know the lingering dream of a mini MINI is over. We’re not going to get one…under current leadership. And, as I said above, that counts for something.

        • I’m not talking about him retracting anything. I’m talking about the gist of what I think he meant, based on the conversations had at the event and what we know about the upcoming car. It will certainly grow a cm here and there in order to accommodate pedestrian crash standards, etc. What he’s NOT talking about is how, for example, the contemporary 3 Series BMW is the size of the old 5 Series. That’s not going to happen with MINI, at least not any time soon. Demands for more practical space will be met by more clever use of the (more or less) current foot print, AND through other models besides the hatch.

      • Herr26

        MINI is not a C-segment car so it won’t get too large as some expect it to do especially in its original form. There is importance for packaging but also to keep the car as proportionate as possible. Practicality and flexibility is a demand by the customer but greater space and overall flexibility can be interpreted in a much greater capacity by another or several MINI Concepts.

        When you look at what is available now and what is on the horizon you will see how space can be given in a MINI especially with a clean sheet of paper, the next generation accommodates this in both the volume MINI and the future niche MINI. A customer can have a family but need more flexibility but does not want to be forced to the volume van with windows conventional approach. It is ideas like this that can be interpreted into a MINI just as BMW values are identified within the BMW Active Tourer without it resorting to conventional approaches.

        A return to the idea of space will be further identified within the next generation of MINI models as they seek to interpret what a MINI say, a Sedan should be like and how such a car can be concentrated and interpreted for the MINI brand. My favourite MINI of the next generation has to be the idea for the Traveller. Like the BMW Active Tourer you would never be the wiser to know what this concept illustrates a bold but brand savvy departure from conventional options and that you would never know that everything you do not see is shared intensively.

        The NAIAS might have been quiet but look out for an exciting Geneva and news in February.

        • ulrichd

          Geneva 🙂 Surely it’s too early for an F56 reveal?

  • Have to add my voice to those despairing the hints at concessions to the size fetishists. Leave it to them to spoil a good thing. I’ll keep waiting for the reveal of this new F56, but I’m not going to own a MINI larger than my 2003. And I’ll only lease if they don’t unveil a hybrid. But apparently that’s just me. 🙁

    • R.Burns

      Once for all R56 is lighter than R53, and F56 will be even lighter So you’re saying Light is not right ?

  • Alpinamike

    Dr. Segler is a great guy , I enjoyed talking to him on MTTS 2012 . He is interesting to listen to and you can tell he is a MINI guy just as much as BMW guy. Take that in stride.

  • RB

    I got to meet this nice gentleman on MTTS 2012. I was with friend GP George as he and Seglar talked about the new GP, I kept to the side as I knew the question “what kind of MINI do you own?” would come up, and of course he finally noticed me and asked it. I said that I had owned a 2002 and a 2004 and loved the 2004 but I now owned a Abarth. He looked shocked and said that I had made a mistake. I said I was happy and he smiled and said “It’s a fine car but MINIs are better.” In some ways I’d have to agree but the longer I have my Fiat the more I enjoy it and have become more in tuned as to how you need to drive it.

    10K miles and not one cracked windscreen, or other nonsense. TONY FIXED IT!