MINI and BMW executives keep dropping more and more indicators that several current MINI models don’t have a future in this new generation of cars. This latest round of revelations came via Oliver Friedmann, head of MINI brand management, in a conversation with Auto News. Instead of a wide cross-section of model variants, Friedmann says MINI’s new strategy is to focus on three “pillar” cars to ground the product lineup in what MINI is all about. Those models? The F56 hardtop hatch, the next generation Countryman, and the next generation Clubman which we saw in concept at Geneva.
When asked about the Coupe and the Roadster, Friedmann said “It’s not decided but most probably this is not a priority,” and used similar terms to describe the possible fate of the Paceman, the two-door Countryman variant. The language is telling, if we read between the lines a little bit. It would appear MINI has shifted strategy focus from establishing the brand to maximizing its profitability. By culling the lineup and staying focused on what they know will sell, MINI can likely forecast a stable future for itself. Yet don’t take this to mean that MINI will only sell three cars. That’s not going to happen. The shift is that MINI will go from being focused on a single car (the hardtop hatch) and close-orbit spin offs of that car like we’ve seen in the R-generations, to three distinct hero models that will each have their variations.
For example, the Hardtop Hatch will still have a convertible version — we’ve already seen the test mules in spy shots. The Hardtop Hatch will also have a 5-door version, the F55, which we’ve also seen more and more of in test form of late. That’s three cars centered around the F56 Hardtop Hatch as a “pillar” vehicle.
Then, we have the F54, the new Clubman that we saw previewed just last week at Geneva. Closer to the Countryman in size, this new sport wagon model satisfy customer demand for that little more room, two extra doors, that little more utility and expected AWD in a fully street-focused model. At this time, we don’t know of any off-shoots of the new Clubman, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any in the works.
Lastly, we have the F60 Countryman — perhaps the most mysterious of MINI’s F-generation cars so far. What we do know is that the F60 will be more SUV-focused than the current R60 Countryman. It will be larger, and variations might include an MPV-style people mover that could seat seven. There are even indications that the Countryman “pillar” car might have third row seating to handle seven passengers.
In a way, it seems like MINI is doing what it’s been doing — having several strategic model variants to widen their customer appeal — but they’ve spread the brand into three distinct starting points, rather than just one. Is it really a new strategy, or better framing and execution of what MINI’s done since 2007. It also sounds like MINI is responding to their own sales history, which makes sense. Sell the cars that sell.
So when will we see the niche favorites like the twins and the Paceman go away? We’ve already reported on how the hardtop-based Clubman is ceasing production because its foundation car has been replaced. Since the Coupe/Roadster are based on the current generation convertible, expect them to be phased out around 2016-17. As for the Paceman, again, follow the foundation. When the new Countryman hit the market around 2017, the Paceman’s days are likely numbered.
What do you think? Are three pillars better than one? Sound off in the comments.
Via: Auto News