Why Can’t MINI Continue Making Its Old Cars?

Pedestrian impact standards. Crash standards. Efficiency standards. Lets just get them out of the way. These are the typical reasons stated why automakers redesign their cars every 6-7 years. You can also add to the list changing consumer tastes and the need to attract customers by new designs and different offerings.

It’s all in the name of progress. But as many MF readers know progress doesn’t always appeal to everyone.

Case in point the R53 Cooper S. For many of us it’s the car that began our love our MINIs. Arguably it’s also the most iconic car MINI’s made since the classic Mini. MotoringFile called it the last classic car that will ever be made while it was still being produced. It wasn’t refined in any way yet it’s the immediately fun car we had ever driven outside of a classic Mini.

clubman_r55_f54_1979

Another example is the first generation Clubman. Weird in all the right ways it defied categorization by taking a small city car and growing it only slightly and adding one small door. It’s the kind of car that we all knew would never sell in quantity but we were so thankful MINI made it. As much as we love our new Clubman (and in most ways prefer it) we miss the smaller more nimble R55.

Take away all those standards that cars have to meet and all the arguments why old cars wouldn’t sell in mass numbers for a moment. Wouldn’t it be interesting if MINI could sell a few of these old models along side the new more modern line-up similar to how Apple sells previous generation devices. Looking at the Apple model, the strategy is to take last year’s high-end phone and sell it for less to reach a different market. For MINI it would be a very different strategy. Sell an older generation in small numbers at a higher price and target enthusiasts and those who simply prefer the older cars.

It defies standard automotive logic and it would have to overcome enormous legislative hurdles. But it makes for a great dream. In the meantime prices of low mileage R53s keep going down and they keep looking appealing.

R53

  • Jay

    I would actually love to see them bring back the classic (1990 – 2000 era) MINI as a special edition or something. I am also still holding out hope for a Rocketman

  • oldsbear

    The R53 trapped my heart and mind with its fun spirit — noise and quickness and rawness and smallness. And then it grew up. Crap.

  • ulrichd

    Ironic. A while back I decided to “upgrade” to a new iPhone SE from a larger phone. All the new tech in a smaller size. Wish I could do the same with the MINI.

    • James D

      Same here. More modern processor inside an older body. A winning combination but not for everyone. At least we have the option.

  • Dennis Bratland

    Is BMW going to tolerate having any car with a less than 5-star NCAP safety rating? To them, intentionally building a 4-star car would cause far too much damage to their brand, and only to please some enthusiasts in a niche. I also can’t figure out who would build these older model cars, or where they would be made. Apple outsources all their manufacturing — they just tell their overseas contractor they want x-hundred thousand more iPhone 5’s or whatever, and it’s their problem to figure out where and who. I guess outsourcing the whole thing could work with a car, but the quality control would be a nightmare. BMW spend every hour managing that and never get around to making any other cars.

    If any other car maker had done such a thing, it might seem a little more realistic. There’s brands that have stuck with the same car — Volvo, Mini — for eons compared to the Detroit habit of a facelift every year no matter what. But actually bringing back an old model?

    There is nothing stopping them from trying again to recapture the spirit of the R53 with the next generation, or the one after that. Classics only come along every once in a while — if they were all great we’d take them for granted and not even call them classics. Sturgeon’s law says 90% of everything is crap, so if they got it right for one out of the three generations so far, that’s pretty far ahead of the curve.

    • BEKEN

      Volkswagon did it in Canada by selling the Jetta and Golf City variants. Essentially carefully optioned base model previous generation cars for less than the current gen cars.