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BMW to Shrink MINI Range While Creating More Styling Differentiation

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Bookmark this post. Because in 7-8 years we’ll be talking about this as a reality.

According to Autocar, BMW plans to reduce the number of models within the MINI range with the introduction of the fourth generation car. Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW board member for Mini and Rolls-Royce suggested that MINI focus on it’s core “hero” models rather than create many derivatives. While it’s not necessarily something we haven’t heard before, this is the first time a BMW Board member has gotten into the strategy behind the move.

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Reducing MINI Variants

This concept of re-focusing the brand seems based around investing more into each car and maintaining a level of engineering, design and quality of the highest order.

He said BMW had to be “sensitive about the number of variants and about size. It is better to go in a different direction to concentrate on doing less but better”.

The idea here is to spend more on less models thereby making those models even perform, look and achieve a higher quality than previously though attainable. Given the execution of the new F56, it’s clear MINI is already well down this path. According to sources BMW has invested literally billions into the UKL platform that every new 3rd generation MINI will be based on.

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More differentiation in Styling

While we haven’t seen the entire range of the 3rd generation MINI (the first of that generation was just released with the F56) we’ve heard through several sources that the overall styling will be very consistent throughout the range. Even more so than today with the R60 having a distinctly different face than the R56. According to Autocar, Mr. Schwarzenbauer “would like to see the styling of future Mini models to change to have much greater differentiation” as the line-up shrinks.

Furthermore Schwarzenbauer spoke about MINI investing in a small London based design studio to help bring the brand closer to it’s British roots.

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Moving Up Market

All this could mean better cars but it could also mean higher prices. Given the trend towards small premium products (that MINI basically invented in many markets) BMW seeing this as a natural progression of the brand. The key question being, can BMW continue to play to higher end while offering an entry level into the brand.

What Models Will Survive

According to Autocar it’s clear that Schwarzenbauer sees the hatch, convertible and a proper crossover as key. I’m sure there are some intense internal debates happening at MINI HQ to figure out the rest. As we’ve reported, we expect to see the Roadster and Coupe combined into one car or killed off entirely. Furthermore the R54 Clubman and the barely smaller F55 four door hatch may ultimately become one.

Autocar mentions that we’ll start to see this thinking in product execution with the introduction of the next Countryman in 2017. While that car will be on the same UKL platform as the F56, it will be a good time for MINI to introduce the strategy as it redoes the 4th generation cars – starting with the Hatch in late 2020.

And wouldn’t it be great if BMW threw in some carbon fiber along the way?

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Written By: Gabe

  • Alexandre

    Loving the J.J. Abrams touch on the picture above ;) Seriously though I think we can all agree that a focus strategy will be welcome by a number of fans and will most likely proved successful when comparing this business case to what has been in other industries. Couple of questions for MF. How much focus are we talking about? I wonder because if it just means killing the twins and the MINI sedan project, we will not necessarily witness a big slash across the line. About “Furthermore the R54 Clubman and the barely smaller F55 four door hatch may ultimately become one”. Are they seriously considering merging two models that are so advanced in their respective development stages? That sounds unlikely to me.

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

      Personally I’m not convinced that they’re not talking about the same thing as we’re already seeing in the F56 generation of cars, but with more focus and clearer positioning. These three “hero” cars could easily still have variations. The hardtop hero car is a 2-door and a 4-door. The “SUV” hero car could still have two-door and wagon variations like we’re expecting in this generation. Then the “convertible” hero car might have a two-seater version with a retracting hard top. What might change more fundamentally is how the cars are labeled, talked about, and even rolled out, yet we’d still have a lot of different cars available. Then again MINI may go back to only having three models with a handful of trim levels, as is implied here. Time will tell.

      • scamper

        Re: “the ‘convertible’ hero car might have a two-seater version…” In my fantasy, this “differentiation” we’re talking about would mean that this hypothetical 2-seater would actually get its much-needed shorter wheelbase, and not be slapped on the existing (and now even longer!) frame. I understand why this isn’t always pragmatic, but one can dream: coupes want to be small! (Full disclosure: I think the Coupé is cute, just too long.)

      • scamper

        Re: “the ‘convertible’ hero car might have a two-seater version…” In my fantasy, this “differentiation” we’re talking about would mean that this hypothetical 2-seater would actually get its much-needed shorter wheelbase, and not be slapped on the existing (and now even longer!) frame. I understand why this isn’t always pragmatic, but one can dream: coupes want to be small! (Full disclosure: I think the Coupé is cute, just too long.)

      • BimmerFile_Michael

        When I talked the Schwarzenbauer last fall- he said that he liked the current number of MINIs- not the current lineup but the current number of variants.

        This makes sense if they merged the roadster/coupe (or something similar in concept :) ) added the 5 door (to replace the clubman), move the clubman up in size, keep the countryman, kill the paceman and add the “space box”.

        Just saying…

  • kevin

    Anyone else finding themselves loving the countryman more and more as time progresses and we see what mini is doing? I used to have an r53 and I’d get a facelifted countryman over an f56 today…

    • wetwolf

      I have a ’02 R53, my wife had a ’08 R55 and now has a ’13 R60. The driving experience between the R53 and the R60 is seriously night and day,as you would expect. My wife constantly says she misses her R55. All three have the their pluses and minuses. However, I will say as someone who likes the handling of the R53, I would not buy a R60. You really have to want a little, tall, 4-door hatch to want the R60. I try not to call it a SUV just because of the fact that it rides taller. Maybe if you had the ALL4, which we do not have.

      • carcrazed

        I am quite pleased with the handling of my Paceman S ALL4 despite my love of the smaller MINI even better go kart handling.

    • ulrichd

      Ah no. I feel about the Countryman the same as I do about the Porsche Cayenne. It’s necessary for the survival of the brand in terms of sales volume but I find it not fitting with what is my own personal perception of what is MINI. Sales indicate many disagree with me.

  • MINI GR

    Here’s what I would have gone for in my imaginary universe:

    1. MINI Hatch & Convertible: True city car and a vehicle closer to the original Mini. 3-doors, MINI Rocketman size and cleaner front and rear design. Note: The Convertible’s folding top would be similar to that of the FIAT 500C.
    2. MINI Clubman: B-segment car. Ford Fiesta size, 5-doors only to set it apart from the Hatch and similar in shape to what the current 5-door MINI will be.
    3. MINI Paceman: Mazda MX-5 size 2-seater roadster. The one niche model of the lineup. Retractable hardtop roof to clearly set it apart from the Convertible.
    4. MINI Traveller: Station Wagon meets MPV. Shape similar to the next generation MINI Clubman to be revealed next year but with sliding rear doors and current MINI Countryman length to satisfy the MINI lovers with a family. Who said schoolrun can’t be fun?
    5. MINI Countryman: Mini crossover with 5-doors. Essentially a jacked up version of the Traveller but without the sliding doors and with a regular door at the back. Styling cues from the current MINI Paceman cuv.

    I know none of these will probably happen since there are lots of things in the way (platforms, business cases etc.) but hey, it’s my imaginary world, remember?

  • http://twitter.com/matthewwanderer matthew

    This news is a welcomed revision/reversal from the news in 11.2012 that MINI would dramatically expand the range. Hoping at some point the Rocketman, or a similarly smaller MINI is reconsidered.

    http://www.motoringfile.com/2012/11/24/mini-to-expand-model-range-dramatically/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Motoringfile+%28MotoringFile+%7C+MINI+News%2C+Reviews+and+Podcast%29

    • John

      Maybe the next gen MINI will outgrow its current segment, leaving room for the Rocketman to take it’s place. Kind of like VW Golf and Polo. Would be a shame to wait 7 years or more for the Rocketman if it ever came :(

  • txdesign

    I’d quit showing the pic of all four generations. Each progression breaks your heart a little.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Depends on how nostalgic your heart is.

      • ulrichd

        It’s just a general disappointment about how regulations and marketing, especially the pedestrian impact standards and the constant need to make each generation larger than the previous one, are taking the fun and innovation out of car design. As a graphic designer and car enthusiasts I my early fifties who truly values design innovation in all things I find myself caring less and less about new model introductions. The last car has has truly inspired me is the new Jaguar F Type which unfortunately I can’t afford. After two Minis (R50/53) I currently drive a heavily modified BMW 128 (manual of course). I would be very hard pressed to name a small performance car I am truly excited about in the $30-40K range. Still have a glimmer of hope for Alfa coming back.

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          I hear you. The F56 (nose aside) is a huge step forward in you want FWD. If not there’s a wealth of great RWD cars on the used market.

        • http://twitter.com/matthewwanderer matthew

          Agree. Given MINI’s brand message – fun, rebellious/different, premium – it seems to be a very strong candidate for a manufacturer-driven car sharing model. Experimental or otherwise.

          Ford’s Ford2Go program was the first of this kind, and it was in Germany. I haven’t seen any assessment of how its doing roughly two years later, but my feeling is that car sharing, while obviously viable, is still a little ahead of its time. Particularly here in the States.

        • ulrichd

          As soon as used 1M’s take a sudden and unexplained dive in value (to less than $45K) I am all over that :)

        • http://twitter.com/matthewwanderer matthew

          “Still have a glimmer of hope for Alfa coming back.”

          The Alpha Romeo 4C is garnering very good reviews. I don’t know if this qualifies as Alpha’s comeback, but perhaps:

          http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-review/alfa-romeo/4c

        • Alexandre

          Unsubscribe.

        • oldsbear

          Wow. Talk about an ugly face; that Alpha is suffering :(

        • Mark Smith

          The 4C is HOT!!!!

        • ulrichd

          It’s Alfa not Alpha and it’s glorious looking. Another beautiful car I can’t afford.

        • r.burns

          It sure is fun to drive (though a bad direction feeling and a bad automatic box) but quite ugly in some views !

    • http://twitter.com/matthewwanderer matthew

      One of the exterior features I miss most – not including those dictated away by regulation – are the flared wheel arch trim pieces.

      • ulrichd

        Yes, seems like each generation seems to flatten them out a bit more.

      • John

        Mmmmm, those beautiful wheel arches.

      • Kev50027

        I completely agree with you. I’ve always liked the looks of the R56 more (long before I broke down and got one), but the one thing that it’s missing is nice sporty flared arches. Sure, I know it’s FWD, but those flared rear arches make the car look more menacing, and less cutesy.

        Unfortunately the F56 with its huge rear lights and semi halo on the front lights seems to be going more towards “cute” than ever before. For those who buy a car simply because of the looks and want a girly car that’s fine, but I want something a bit more evil.

  • Alexandre

    I think this is a very timely article given the topic of this conversation: http://feedly.com/k/1fSK0be

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Ive been saying for years that MINI needs to become about buying, leasing and… car sharing. It’s the future of urban transportation.

      • http://twitter.com/matthewwanderer matthew

        Agree. Given MINI’s brand message – fun, rebellious/different, premium – it seems to be a very strong candidate for a manufacturer-driven car sharing model. Experimental or otherwise.

        Ford’s Ford2Go program was the first of this kind, and it was in Germany. I haven’t seen an assessment of how its doing roughly two years later, but my feeling is that car sharing, while obviously viable, is still a little ahead of its time here in the States.

  • Aurel

    Very interesting. It seems the next few years will decide depending on how new product sells, what stays and what goes. I feel the release of the new Clubman AND the 4 door hatch pretty much at the same time is some sort of “real world market testing” to see where consumers minds are at and may the best selling car win.

    I almost feel they kind of did this with the Paceman also. I don’t think it was that much money to put together off the Cm platform and it gave them a clear indication of what people want / not want based on sales.

    Just shooting in the dark here but it feels like this is what’s happening right now.

  • Charlie Victor

    An interesting similarity between this piece and some commentary in this week’s Woofcast – a rebroadcast from 2008!

  • Dr Obnxs

    Much noise and heat, but so little light….. So MINI wants to shrink the brand to maintain focus? What about the years of scaling up to make a profitable brand? If all the reasons to expand the brand were true not that long ago, then slashing the model line up is the wrong thing to do. If it is the right thing to do, what changed?

    Seeing as the BMW brand keeps pushing out an ever increasing number of series derivatives to grow total unit sales, why is that good for BMW and not for MINI?

    Really, there is more to worry about here than to celebrate. Either the MINI board champion is going off the BMW reservation in terms of market growth strategy, or the last 5+ years of MINI brand strategy were nothing more than a stinker who’s only claim to fame is leaving skid marks in the bowl!

    • DaCrema

      Of course now that BMW is adding front wheel drive cars to their line up there is no longer the need to grow the MINI brand as the bigger cars will be BMW. In theory BMW/RR/MINI corporate could take the FWD drive train and build a small mid engine rear drive sports car like Toyota did with the MR2. Such moves grow the platform without necessary diluting the core what is MINI.

  • Mark Smith

    “Furthermore the R54 Clubman and the barely smaller F55 four door hatch may ultimately become one.” This statement doesn’t make sense to me as they are growing the Clubman upon its redesign to Countryman proportions so that it becomes more of a Sportwagon. I love this idea!!!

  • Piper

    MINI should not try to be all things to all people. It is (and has been) a specialty car. It should retain this identity. Too many variants diminish its distinction. The traditional hardtop should remain MINI’s focus and signature product. MINI needs to “go back to the future” and not become a candidate for The Biggest Loser. Obesity is unattractive and inefficient. Smaller is better. Remember that MINI. It’s in your DNA. Do not mutate into the eyesore you are becoming.

  • Tim H

    It will be quite interesting to see what the general public think (aka sales i suppose) of the new MINI. There are a lot of nay sayers about the brands direction here, and I am honestly a bit excited to see how it all plays out. (sadly it takes so long to see it happen) I’m gonna see the F56 this weekend here at the Canadian Auto show in Toronto. I’m excited to experience how seeing it in person will impress or dissapoint me. There is a lot of talk about the size and look on here. I wonder how many have seen it or are just window commenting. I can’t envision 3″ in size in my head. i need to see and touch it.

    • R.O

      I’ve seen it at the San Francisco Auto show last year in November. Generally the size doesn’t look that much bigger than the R56. Yeah from behind one can notice it’s a bit wider but the rear area looks much better than the R56. The tail lights do look out of proportion and IMO way to big. The F56 (they had the S at the show) looks nice (for me better than the R56).

      There are somethings I didn’t like, such as the front “looked like glued on afterthought” brake ducts in front and same add-on in back, no CD player standard (I know, I know – lol), the 1/4 moon fuel or whatever it is lights/gauge-thingy to the right of the speedo, and the cheap feeling window rocker switches on the doors.

      I love volcanic Orange . Hope that colors stays around (zero cost option too) for a long time. In general, I feel the F56 looks closer to the R50/53 in a stylish way including the bonnet area. I liked it, with the some exceptions.

  • Paul

    I am hopeful that MINI will continue to offer a base hardtop in the $20-$22K range for those of us who can’t afford the higher prices of the fully-optioned and more powerful models. I love my ’12 base Cooper, and I hope that MINI won’t abandon loyal customers at the lower end of the price spectrum.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Go back and check out our story on F56 pricing. The big news is that the Cooper will continue to be priced below 20k in the US.

      • Paul

        From all the preliminary tests done so far, the F56 seems to be a bit more “grown up” and refined while still retaining the spirited handling and distinctive styling characteristics that draw us MINI fans to the brand. With only a modest price increase, this car seems like it will be a great value. Can’t wait to get my paws on one!


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R61: MINI Crossover Coupe
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F54: Clubman
F55: Five Door Hatch
F56: Hatch
F57: Convertible
F60: MINI Crossover
F58: Traveller

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