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MINI USA to Likely Launch Diesels in Conjunction with New Models

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It was a little more than a year ago that we broke the first viable rumor that MINI might finally be bringing a diesel engine option to the US market. Than in January, there were a number of gems in the interviews we did with Jim McDowell and Dr. Kay Segler at the North American International Auto Show. Even more recently, MINI product manager, Patrick McKenna, has once again confirmed that MINI USA is very interested in bringing a Diesel option to US MINIs. So what do we make of it all?

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Dr. Segler wasn’t shy in saying that the current generation of cars is off the table due to design issues associated with the bluetech solution. The technology uses urea injection to reduce CO2 emissions and requires a low-cost refill at oil change intervals. The problem is there simply isn’t a place to put it in the current generation of cars. However MINI engineers in Germany have taken note and rumor has it that most new cars going forward could accommodate such a system.

However the irony is that MINI will soon be offering ultra efficient three cylinders in Cooper models that won’t be far off diesel MPG figures.

That’s just the thing, isn’t it? The US MINI community’s previous lust for all things MINI diesel has been in the context of previous MINI engine power and efficiency numbers. However, as we’ve reported previously, the next generation MINI Cooper, the F56, will feature a range of three (and four) cylinder engines. With the weight of the F56 set to drop, and more efficient power coming coming from these new power plants, the petrol-burning MINI Cooper is likely to approach diesel-like numbers on its own. Would the extra diesel torque be worth the likely significant price premium when the bone standard F56 MINI Cooper will likely get the better part of 47 mpg on the highway?

What do you think? Where’s your torque-to-range sweet spot? Sound off in the comments.

Written By: Nathaniel Salzman

  • John

    I think this may help keep sales in the other models. If someone really wants a Coupe with better mileage and mileage is the main factor…they will probably go with a F56 base instead if the diesels aren’t offered in the other models.

  • Neal

    Still the same answer form the previous question in an early post. I wouldn’t hesitate to get a Countryman SD All4.

  • tobirama

    with my current R56 diesel (hdi 110 PSA model, not the bmw 112 HP model), i can make up to 750 KM with one tank. very economic but also annoying to drive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scamper Scamper Robinson

    All I know is that I would only consider leasing for a gas burner. No actual purchases, for me, until we see electrics or hybrids. Too bad I only like Minis.

  • Ike

    I really like the idea of the diesel… If I could get similar performance, with significant savings at the pump, I’d love to get into a diesel JCW.

  • Gary

    There is no doubt that most customers who would consider a diesel are in a different group than those who would buy an electric or hybrid. A year ago, I would have predicted that a diesel might miss the mark; however, they’re getting increasingly good press across the board these days. Hybrid loyalty has reached a plateau — sales have been flat and are expected to remain so for the time being (http://tinyurl.com/aqg7yla). The mpg numbers on a MINI diesel are likely to be headline material. MINI may just have their timing right on this one.

  • 05 JCW

    Give me a diesel SD ALL4 Manual Paceman or Countryman and I’m a happy man!

  • Evan

    Very interesting.

    I believe the diesel would be best for the Countryman. With its sized and All4, the gains of diesel over petrol for it would be worth the price increase. I don’t see giving up the rev happy nature of a gasoline engine in a small car with a focus on handling like the MINI. If the 3 cylinder gas engine can get high 40s on the highway, the loss of character and price premium of diesel loses out.

    The efficiency of the gas engines for such a small car like the MINI is getting to the point where diesel isn’t as much of a boon. Especially here where the premium over gas at purchase time requires many miles to make it more cost-effective. This is the same reason why a hybrid MINI hatch makes no sense at all.

    I’d have to drive the diesel hatch back to back with the gas to fully decide. But a premium over $1000-$1500 for diesel would take it off the list for me. A diesel Countryman though, I’d allow $1500-$2000 for the diesel. The larger, heavier vehicle with ALL4 would greatly benefit from a diesel.

    From a cost perspective for BMW Group- certifying a 4 cylinder diesel that’d be suitable for both BMW and MINI may restrict how many MINIs actually see the diesel. VW Group essentially has one 4 cylinder TDI for all Audi-VW in the USA, correct?

  • AMS

    We looked at diesels when my fiancee bought a car in late ’11, but between the price premium on the vehicles and the higher cost of a gallon of diesel fuel vs. gasoline, the math just never made a ton of sense. My understanding is that the price differential between the fuel types can very a lot across regions and at different times of the year, so maybe they offer better value elsewhere.

  • BimmerFile_Michael

    Considering in my F20 120d I am getting 50 mpg per gallon in mixed driving I would imagine the MINI diesel getting high 50s… there is a 3 cylinder diesel in the works as well and that may just beat the majority of hybrids.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      That’s likely the engine the US will get.

  • Chilly

    I would prefer to have the extra torque and (presumed) reliability of a Diesel. It all depend on just how big a price difference we’re talking about. Also, I think I’d be hesitant to buy a 3 cylinder until it’s been proven in the real world for at least a couple of years.

    • CV

      I agree that the low-rpm torque would be welcome, especially in stop & go traffic.

      I would expect about a $1000 price delta, perhaps as high as $1500; more than that would be unlikely to garner sufficient sales to make the effort worthwhile.

      As far as a 3-cylinder is concerned, it’s nothing new. Subaru (Justy) and Chevy/Geo (Metro) both have offered 3-cylinder gas engines in the US car market. Diesel 3-cylinders have been around in tractors since the 1960s (Fordson Dexta was the first, followed by the 2000/3000 series).

  • THAN

    THAN THAN THAN THAN THAN THANTHAN THAN THAN THAN THAN THANTHAN THAN THAN THAN THAN THAN

  • MF’nJones

    But the real question is….Per mile of ownership, will we still have the same amount of rattles?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jake.bosford Jake Bosford

    If you can’t do it without urea forget about it. Not interested in a $200-300 fill up every oil change. All the cost savings down the drain, never make up the premium price you’ll pay for the diesel engine. That’ll be the reason the diesel cruze flops as well.

    • JCW2012

      Where do you get $200-$300 a fill-up? DEF Fluid at O’Reillys Auto Parts costs $16.99 for a 2.5 gallon amount. A small diesel like in the MIni would probably use less than 3 gallons every 15,000 miles.

      • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

        It’s $10 a gallon and the tank is 6 gallons. $60 every 10,000-12,000 miles.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jake.bosford Jake Bosford

        Factoring in the dealer up charge for the urea and labor. Yes you can do it yourself, and it will probably be covered umder the maintenance program for the first couple refills hopefully.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      Talk about uniformed… this is why diesel is given a bad rap.

  • glangford

    I’d drive a mini diesel. I don’t understand the comments on higher cost per gallon. It’s not that much more considering you buy premium for a Mini. In fact I’ve thought for a while now that my next car may just be a diesel. If Mini has one available I’ll consider it. If not its going to be a volkswagen golf. I’d like to understand how VW can produce one that meets regs without urea fliuid whereas everyone else needs it….

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      The current VW engine just clears current regulations, with its combination of exhaust gas recirculation, a particulate filter, and three catalytic converters to deal with hydrogen sulfide, oxidation, and oxides of nitrogen. Currently, VW diesels use a NOx storage catalytic converter (in the Jetta/Golf) in the exhaust to meet emissions requirements.

      To have the EA288 (next gen TDI) comply with the stringent EU6 regulations—VW has employed a urea NOx reduction device SCR. The combination of the urea system, two exhaust-gas recirculation devices, a particulate filter, and an oxidation catalytic converter decreases emissions 45-percent versus the old engine (so says VW).

      The Passat and Toureg already use this technology. The Jetta/Beetle/Golf are the last to switch over as is mandated by 2014.

  • Ryephile

    Diesel fuel contains about 10% more energy per unit volume than straight 87 octane gasoline. Assuming the B37 was comparably more efficient than the B38, the cost of adding the DPF and SCR would be more than offset by the added torque [fun factor] and fuel economy gains.

    I’ll still champion MINI bringing a Cooper D and Cooper SD to the USA, and I’ll be first in line if they actually offer a Cooper D 6MT hatch. That said, I won’t be surprised when they drop the ball yet again.

  • el Zilcho

    Urea injection reduces NOx emissions.

  • Aaron

    Better late than never, I suppose. I was waiting for MINI USA to bring the SD to us all these years and could no longer wait for it. I’m loving my 6MT VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI. Good luck with the diesel roll out, MINI. Maybe when my HPFP fails, I’ll have a MINI option to consider :)

  • L

    If mini offers a SD with 6-speed stick, I’d run out and buy one as soon as it comes. As one who traded in a Cooper for an A3 TDI, consider this: my A3 gets approximately the same fuel consumption figures as a regular Cooper on paper (only because of how I drive), but is a much bigger car.

    Honestly, I miss the Mini’s handling characters and stick shift, but I love my A3’s fuel economy and low-end torque. For a small car, low end torque will without a doubt make the car more of a hot hatch to power through the corners and generally make the car a lot more fun to drive. I’m all for it.

  • Kage in Boston

    I’m not set on a diesel. I just won’t trade in my Toyota for a Countryman until I can get 40 mpg plus, I don’t care what kind of fuel I am using. But I am also watching carefully to see what Fiat will do with the 500L in the US. I can be patient…

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

      Have you seen the 500L in person? I’d stick with Toyota, personally.

  • Kage in Boston

    And I have to agree with some of the other comments – if Mini can’t get us want we want I’ll be looking at the VW diesel lineup for my next purchase.

  • Prionel

    BMW has been a great procrastinator in bringing the Cooper D (Diesel) to the USA. I really don’t understand BMW’s lame excuses for not offering the Cooper D here, when it’s been offered in Europe for quite a while now and VW has a diesel version here. As some of the other responders here noted – if this procrastination continues, one can simply switch to a VW Jetta or Passat TD models. They get 50 mpg and are pretty good vehicles in their own right!

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

      In the past, MINI has never been able to make a viable business case for diesel in the US before. Even with a significant price premium over the petrol MINIs, MINI USA would still lose money given how few they were likely to sell (the US is not exactly an explosive market for diesel cars) and the substantial investment costs of getting a new engine EPA certified. It’s boring, but it makes sense. Do you really think that if MINI could make money on diesels in the US that they wouldn’t sell them? Thankfully, the market has evolved and economies of scale with a shared BMW platform may finally make a diesel viable in the US. You can get the whole story from MINI here: http://www.motoringfile.com/2011/01/21/qa-with-mini-usa-on-diesels-in-the-us-market/

      • Prionel

        Thanks for the speedy response, Nathaniel. Since you are asserting that “MINI USA would still lose money given how few they were likely to sell (the US is not exactly an explosive market for diesel cars)” can you please address the fact that VW USA is selling Jettas and Passats TD (=Diesel engined). Are you saying that VW is somehow losing money on its Diesels, since “the US is not exactly an explosive market for diesel cars, and the substantial investment costs of getting a new engine EPA certified”??? It may be “boring”, but I really would appreciate if it you would address what appears to be a paradox here.

        • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

          I’m not saying that they can’t make money on them now. I’m saying that they couldn’t make money on them in the past, which i why there isn’t currently a diesel offering in the US. Our information is that they’re trying very hard to make that business case and that it looks a lot better now than it did a few years ago. Doesn’t mean it’ll happen, but it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. As for why VW is able to bring diesels in more readily than BMW/MINI, keep in mind that VW is an order of magnitude larger company. It’s one of the largest car companies in the world, actually. BMW is very small, and independent, so it has a very different level of resources. VW owns other car companies that are larger than BMW. They can make up for thin margins in volume and they can take a fully global perspective on model lineup and profitability. But even then, their diesel models aren’t exactly outselling their gas cars in the USA either. BMW, on the other hand, literally cannot afford for models to fail in the USA. It’s just way too expensive to bring a car here. So in a way, comparing BMW to VW in this instance is kind of like asking why the UK didn’t try to go the moon in the ’60s when the US and the USSR did. They couldn’t have afforded to if they’d wanted to.

        • Prionel

          Thanks, Nathaniel. I understand, and as a LONG TIME Mini owner – Morris Mini Minor 1969 for 22 years and now one of the first Mini Cooper owners (07/2002) in the USA – it simply saddens me that my next car will likely be a VW Passat TD. At $25K, they are a bargain!

        • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

          Well you gotta do what you gotta do man. Good luck.


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