Auto Express Loves MINI

And that is not an understatement. Following the official launch of the F55 and its subsequent review by a number of outlets, Auto Express editor-in-chief Steve Fowler shares his thoughts on the status of the MINI brand:

Think of it this way: if the original Mini was built by a company that had the wherewithal and finances to continually develop it, 911-style, as it should’ve been, I suspect it would be a very similar car – and model range – to what it is today. Whether you like BMW owning MINI or not, the German company has done brilliant things with the brand, and will continue to do so.

When taking a step back and looking at what BMW has achieved with MINI over the last 12 years, one can’t deny that the German company has achieved great success. Even if the new FXX series shares the UKL platform with its BMW counterparts, the MINI DNA has been preserved from a production, design and marketing standpoint. Over that period of time, we’ve even seen other manufacturers (e.g. Fiat, Citroen) resurrect their respective icons based on a business model that is strangely similar to MINI’s.

The Auto Express editor-in-chief also looks into MINI’s future: As well as driving the new five-door and giving it a tough workout against a bigger, more powerful and more expensive VW Golf GTI, this week we also reported the news that a mini MINI – previewed by the 2011 Rocketman concept – is back on the agenda. I must admit, MINI’s decision not to push on with development always seemed strange to me, but now the car could be about to be reinvented using more traditional (cheaper) materials, but with the same amount of style, quality, fun and technology as the rest of the range.

The Rocketman is obviously the MINI that many fans are waiting for and it seems that the concept is closer than ever to becoming reality, but will it? Peter Schwarzenbauer, who sits on the BMW board and is responsible for the MINI and Rolls-Royce brands, mentioned that one strategy the Group is investigating consist in having a lineup of five “superheroes” with the FXX series. Since the Hatch, the Cabrio, the Clubman and the Countryman already make four “superheroes” – insert Fantastic Four joke here – the Superleggera and the Rocketman are what’s left. Given trends characterizing the future of the automotive industry (i.e. car-sharing, public transportation, self-driving vehicles), my bet is on the Rocketman.

Anyways, how do you look at BMW’s track record with MINI? Which model do you think will be the fifth “superhero”? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Creed Cate

    I am thrilled that BMW has put this back on the table as many of my customers have complained the Hardtops have grown too much. I personally would love one as well, as the Rocketman is as much car as I truly need in my day to day life. Perhaps they could even play with the car sharing program offered (borrow a larger or in this case, gasoline vehicle for a trip) for the BMW i3 since the Rocketman will be so small to be a fully functioning daily driver for some folks.

  • Mr Remi

    I couldn’t choose between a Rocketman and a Superleggera. Both need to be born. Dice have six sides. We could have one superhero for each side. 🙂

  • Xyor

    I am choosing Superleggera over the Rocketman. A hardtop convertible tourer is what I need

  • Mark @ MINI of the Main Line

    BMW owning MINI has created a segment that did not exist prior to 2002 in the USA, too many people forget that. They have significantly changed the landscape of the small car market. If MINI didn’t exist, Fiat wouldn’t either (in the USA). I would still be driving VW’s – and if you remember the GTI from 2001, it was a far cry from what it is today. Every manufacturer needs to adapt or die (anybody remember the PT Cruiser?). I’d say in terms of the BMW ownership if MINI – Well done so far!

    • Geepers

      I have to agree with Mark on many of his points. Although he may not know that the Rover Classic Mini was still being made up until September 2000. Many countries around the world were still enjoying buying new “old Minis” unlike USA who cancelled Minis green card in 1967. As for the PT Cruiser, this was a great car (or should we say a Van) on introduction and continued in production for ten years and 1.35 million units. Designer Bryan Nesbitt (from the same college as Frank Stephenson) also had a hand in the Chev HHR. Unfortunately only a 4-cyl version was made for this big heavy bodied car. The car similarly attracted loyal enthusiastic fans and clubs like MINI. If Chrysler didn’t go belly up then it may have been into more generations. And lastly VW Golf introduced at GTi version in 1976, now into it’s 7th generation having sold 30 million and the 2nd best selling car. My only concern is that after 13 years and only 3 million cars, MINI is still small time in automobiles, most likely due to the philosophy of it being an “premium segment car” and limited production facilities.

      • Mark @ MINI of the Main Line

        All of my experience is in dealing with MINI sales in the United States starting in 2002. I know they sold millions of them prior to 2002 in other parts of the world. MINI is not a powerhouse of a car company – nor do they intend to be. I think it’s ok for a company to build a nice product and not want to dominate the landscape with them. We (MINI) only have small cars. If somebody needs a people mover for a family of 6, they will not be buying a MINI, if they need a pick-up truck, same thing. If they are a Toyota buyer, they never need to leave the brand and they can always find a car to suit their needs, (or Ford, or Chevy, or Nissan, or, insert company name here). I don’t know that MINI is trying to be, or needs to be all things to all people. It’s ok if some people don’t care for your product. Competition is good.

        • Geepers

          You can be assured that the shareholders and Board of BMW Group want to make and sell as many cars as they can. We are constantly given sales figures and targets to indicate this desire.

        • Mark Smith

          Hence the platform sharing for the, to be able to achieve more favorable economies of scale without hurting the brand and core MINI characteristics. MINI has to make a profit to make it viable in the long term and the F5X car is what BMW has been attempting to engineer from almost a decade ago. BMW themselves had to align there product portfolio to be able to offer models that allowed them to build models for both brands on the F5X flexible platform. Now all the tools are in place and with the new cars being introduced both brands can align their model offerings to better cater to their respective clienteles needs.