The rumors have been swirling for awhile. Now Autocar, that UK bastion of credible automotive journalism, is reporting that a MINI sedan is looking likely. The long awaited 5th model has been rumored to be everything from a minivan/MVP to small city car. However with petrol prices low and larger cars selling well, MINI seems to be edging closer to producing a traditional four door sedan.
Sedan body styles are huge business in North America and China but not necessarily volume sellers in the rest of the world. Nevertheless MINI clearly sees the upside in a car that caters to two of it’s largest markets. As Autocar points out this wouldn’t be the first time MINI has made a four door sedan. The Riley Elf and and Wolseley Hornet were two such cars.
Autocar caught up with MINI product management Ralph Mahler at the NYIAS and while he didn’t confirm plans for a saloon, he did reveal that MINI has been doing quite a lot of research into different market trends and segments.
He said: “For example, in Asia and the US, the sedan [saloon] segment is very big. This is very interesting to us, of course.”
“The sedan concept is in our history,” he said. “So we have roots there. We have to look at it in a factual way. Customers may know of the strong heritage of the sedan concept, but it was never [sold in] big volumes. Most customers would hardly know that, so would they link to heritage?”
Mahler said history was very important to Mini as a whole. “Heritage is our core,” he said. “It will play a huge role and it’s a question our customers will always ask.”
In reference to saloon models being more popular in eastern Europe, China and North America than in western Europe, Mahler said it was “always more appealing if you can sell a model worldwide”.
But he added: “You can have 150,000 global sales or 200,000 in a region, so that’s an easy one to answer.”
Theoretically MINI could take advantage of BMW’s new forthcoming 1 Series based on the UKL front wheel drive architecture to speed development. Even still we wouldn’t expect to see anything on the road before 2020.