Rumor: BMW to Delay 4th Generation MINI Due to Electric Models

Hope you like the current generation of MINIs because they’re sticking around for a bit. The current MINI hatch debuted in late 2013 as a 2014 model. Following normal BMW/MINI protocol that means we would have expected an entirely new generation of cars starting in 2020. According to sources these plans have changed and BMW is planning on take the unprecedented step of delaying the 4th generation MINI as it works with new partner Great Wall Motors on the future platform for all MINIs.

The 2020 MINI Electric. Think i3 drivetrain shoehorned into the current F56 chassis.

Rumors are swirling that MINI won’t be making use of BMW’s future front wheel drive platform but creating their own better suited for the brand’s needs. It’s this platform that BMW might be co-developing with Geely/Great Wall Motors. According to Automobile, MINI has concluded that using the new FAAR front drive platform destined for new BMWs would be too pricey and might not suit the brand. Automobile paints a picture that this Chinese platform sharing is a brand saving move. While that sounds dire, we think there’s more going into this decision.

Because this is rather late in the game for the proposed 2020 release,this move would see BMW adding two more years into the current lifecycle pushing the debut to 2023. That would mean the current MINI hatch could be on-sale for a full nine years between redesigns – unheard of for a BMW product that’s not a Rolls Royce. This product lifecycle is so long that we might actually see two LCIs (refreshes).

We’ve heard that BMW is investigating collaboration in small MINIs only and that largest MINIs (the Countryman for instance) will continue to use the larger BMW front drive platform.

Why is MINI Partnering with a Chinese Brand?

MINI is partnering for a few reasons. First this gives them additional production capability in China for the upcoming F Series electric MINI hatch (due in late 2019). These cars will be built in China for the Asian market vs electric MINIs built in Oxford meant for all other markets.

Secondly this gives MINI a partner to develop a platform that better suits the needs of the brand. Designing and engineering platforms can cost over a billion dollars. A relatively small brand like MINI simply can’t afford to create one at scale without partnership of some kind. What this means is that MINI will likely develop an all new electric first platform for MINI and Great Wall Motors on a single electric focused platform. This platform will also form the basis of other vehicles in China – not sold under the MINI brand.

What do you think? Good news? Scary news? Sound off in the comments below.

  • Leo

    One thing that could be interesting for Europe is that in some countries the desicion already has been taken to ban sales of new petrol/diesl cars within 10 years. Meaning that all new sold cars should be green

  • Michael Lehnert

    Okay, I’ll bite, Gabriel 🙂 , even though your source is a pretty old piece by Georg Kacher.

    Personally, I think this is a very good move by BMW Group when looking at this solely from the perspectives of a) achieving electrification within the European and Chinese legal frameworks and timelines, and b) offering customer-convincing “mini-sized” urban electric vehicles beyond the 3rd Generation of MINIs.

    I have to actually concur with Georg Kacher that this is a long-term brand saving move. Half of what Georg writes nowadays is infused with a bit of hyperbole. But despite his unfortunate ill-health and limited mobility, his seniority still allows him respectful access to high-level chitchat in German Big Three corner offices. He would not choose such strong words if it’s not what what he gleaned from Munich corridors of power.

    Despite all the brand enthusiasm, especially in the US (which doesn’t translate into sales, though), the writing is on the wall for MINI if it can’t convincingly and above all economically adapt to the needs of future electrification and urban mobility, while keeping lip service to what the brand is supposed to offer in the BMW Group portfolio. People underestimate how much electrification re-shuffles brand and value perceptions. If you look at the registration data, Tesla (despite the hate it evokes) has re-defined the full-size luxury sedan market in the US and EU, to the chagrin and loss of German premium exports.

    From what I saw in Oxford, the F56 Mini Electric is going to be a very compromised package. In its size and speculated price class, the Honda Urban EV out a year before the Mini Electric might be some serious competition.

    What will be interesting to see – if BMW does what Kacher writes – is how a pretty outdated MINI ICE hatch will fare against the premium and non-premium competition in the 2019-2022 years, and whether this will further transform MINI into a crossover/SUV brand in terms of US sales.

    • The piece in Automobile started this rumor. But since then we’ve heard bits a pieces from a previously trusted source in Europe that would seemingly corroborate what was said (which is why we wrote what we did here). That source is seemingly at odds with the Automobile piece by saying that there are still plans for the larger MINIs to be BMW based.

      • Michael Lehnert

        Yeah, I got that. Klaus Fröhlich is on the record in Geneva of having seeded this to selected media, chiefly Autobild and Auto Motor Sport (both print). UKL2-derived FAAR will extend down to the successors of the F54 and F60 moving off UKL2. Sales have sufficient volume globally (and here, the US sales of F60s support this management decision well) to further the economies of scale for the downsizing compact and mid-sized BMW models equally moving to FAAR. Hence why Georg surmises the writing is on the wall for MINI Gen 4 models on UKL1 which FAAR can’t accommodate. Which raises the valid question if MINI as a brand has long-term viability if only Club- and Countryman can supply the necessary margin to keep MINI alive, yet despite rising sales are somewhat off what MINI is supposed to be about. We all know Mini itself from BMC>BL>Rover Group was a loss leader / loss maker throughout its existence. Munich has no interest to have yet another potential “English patient” case on hand, and is known to make radical decisions if it wants to.

        There are quite a few more convergence points to bear in mind: – Daimler and BMW fully merging all their existing mobility services (car share, subscription, taxiing, finance) to form a joint company, with BMW being the stronger partner here. – Geely (cunningly) buying into Daimler after its initial attempt to broker a deal with BMW Group fell apart (as the Quandt family was unwilling to do a share deal that would affect its majority stake); – BMW and Great Wall then teaming up for small electric architecture, even though neither is the preferred partner. – The clear rivalry between Geely and Great Wall, with Great Wall being in the junior position internationally, but leading over Geely in PRC market share (though almost solely due to its Haval SUV brand, and no compact car models of merit).

        As you rightly write, there’s more going into this decision, and putting together tariff-friendly electric-CKDs by limited-skilled labour at Plant Oxford from 2020 onwards to fufill the “Made in Britain” label for those few buyers who still purchase cars based on the illusion of “nationality” is only one of many.

  • ulrichd

    Ha. This is the sound of used R50/53 values going ever higher. There is even a R53 in the upcoming season of Wheeler/Dealers.

  • TDCS

    there are a lot of high-up meetings with bmw and mini in the next couple weeks… i’m hopeful the rumor mills and articles such as this will be put to rest.

  • MVJCW

    Maybe they can use the extra time to design a beautiful, well-proportioned front end.

    • one9deuce

      Glad you’re excited for the “Made in China” electric MINI. I’ll stick with my manual transmission, internal combustion engine and turbo, with a front end that reminds me of classic 60’s sports cars, made in Great Britain, F56.

      • ulrichd

        As the article states the China made cars will be for the Asian markets, we still get the made in Oxford versions. Also, unless I missed it, there is no plan to make MINI electric only. Also I agree with MYJCW, the F56 is ill proportioned because it was stretched over the X1 chassis which lead to some design compromises that are less than successful.

        • one9deuce

          You’re under the impression that one foot over in China won’t lead to more (or all) being done there? I’m not.

          You’re under the impression that the future isn’t headed to electric only? I’m not.

          You’re under the impression that everyone has the same idea on what makes a good looking car? I’m not.

        • ulrichd

          Good grief, I simply pointed out what was mentioned in the article. None was my personal “Impression”. As for the design comment I simply agreed with the OP about the proportions of the current hatch. You are welcome to disagree.

        • one9deuce

          Cheers.

        • AnthLC

          Chinese made cars will be built for Asian markets ok with that but hopefully doesn’t ship to Australia.

          Australians see the Mini as a quirky UK luxury brand if built in a China they simply won’t sell here anymore.

          My concern is more about the engineering of the platform will it still have the quality of the BMW brand or will it be Oxford built and Chinese Great Wall engineering. If the latter I won’t be buying one.

          I like the idea of a more “mini” platform but I need a lot of convincing the quality, safety and top engineering BMW bring to the brand will be lost of sourced from a Great Wall.

          BMW need to think really carefully how this plays out cause many Mini owners will be worried. It is likely to damage the brand.

          Many UK or US viewers won’t understand how bad Great Wall reputation is on safety and quality. In Australia they generally only brought for off road, on farms. It is so bad people would think twice accepting a ride in one.

          BMW would be smarter to work on a platform both brand use but are separate cars. So tech gets used in a Great Wall car and separately by a BMW engineered Mini.

          Mini owners have enough laughs from BMW owners saying the Mini is a poor man’s BMW. I can only imagine what they say of a Chinese engineered and sourced mini.

        • Nick Dawson

          BMWs and the MINI Countryman have been assembled in India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand – using some local content – for many years now, and all have been well received in those countries.

          We have a winter second home in Penang Malaysia. I can speak from personal experience with regard to the quality of the R60 Countryman assembled in Malaysia, where I could detect absolutely no difference compared with my R60 built by Magna Steyr in Austria. Assembly of the F60 Countryman PHEV and Countryman ‘Sport’ has just started in Malaysia, and is creating considerable customer interest.

        • AnthLC

          I wasn’t aware Mini are made in Malaysia. I wonder if there is away to tell where you car was made or which country builds the better Mini in terms of less faults. Will be looking that up in google.

          I think if the platform is purely BMW engineering and assembly then I am less concerned. BMW did make the Mini reliable. My concern is more about whether Great Wall are up to the task.

          So how much input into the platform would be BMW or Great Wall, 50/50, 80/20 or 20/80.

          I am not confident Great Wall engineering Is equivalent to BMW or has the same depth of knowledge. The reason the F56 is such a good little car is because of the BMW platform.

          The original mini were made in Australia a long time ago so may not matter where made. But the platform is important.

          So still concerned but hope results in a great car.

          It is sad no local manufacturing of cars in Australia but they weren’t building cars people wanted to buy and other countries have lower costs. They still do a lot of the engineering and design just not the making.

        • Nick Dawson

          Yes indeed – BMW began local assembly of the R60 Countryman in 2013, at the BMW Assembly Plant in Kulim, in the state of Kedah in northern Malaysia, and has just started assembly of the F60 Countryman. In fact Malaysia was the first overseas destination outside Europe to build the Countryman.

          http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2018/04/05/surprise-mini-cooper-s-countryman-sports-launched-right-after-countryman-plug-hybrid

          With regard to the fourth generation MINI – the MINI Metro range of all-electric City Cars – I would expect BMW to be taking a 100% lead in the design of the platform, but in consultation with GWM who will be building thier own versions of the car, in addition to building the MINI Metro on behalf of BMW for sale in China.

        • Cars made in Maylasia are meant for local sales only. In the US and the U.K. everything we get comes from Oxford or the Netherlands.

        • Nick Dawson

          Not necessarily – for example, BMW was awarded a license by the Chinese Government back in 2017, to export its cars built in China to other parts of the world, including the US and Europe. So far it has not done so. Similarly, BMW’s assembly plant in Malaysia is set to become the assembly hub for exporting its models to other parts of the region.

          Australia has a free trade agreement with Malaysia, and bearing in mind the geographical proximity, and the fact that Australia has a relatively small population, it could be economically more viable to export MINIs assembled in the BMW Malaysia assembly plant to Australia, rather than from the – quite literally – other side of the world.

      • MVJCW

        Did I say I was excited about the “Made in China”? The design work is done in Southern California and Munich, and the front end of all MINI’s are in dire need of some fine tuning. My ’09 JCW runs great, looks new, no need for replacement yet, and that is something to be excited about!

        • As said above the electric MINI will be made in Oxford for all markets except Asia. The electric MINI from China will be for China and other select Asia markets.

        • AnthLC

          But you haven’t explained if Chinese engineering platform or a quality BMW platform. I am more worried about the engineering then where it is built. But saying that I won’t be buying a made in China Mini. BMW take note.

        • Nick Dawson

          BMW has already made it clear that it will take the lead on the engineering side and – as with all BMW products produced outside of Europe – production will meet BMW’s corporate standards. MINIs produced by GWM will be unique to China, and will have some local content, as is the case with BMWs currently produced in China.

          Premium ‘Superminis’ are not very profitable, whereas SUVs cost little more to make and so are hugely profitable. Premium All-electric City Cars are even more precarious profit wise, so a tie-up with another large scale manufacturer is now essential.

          The big plus for BMW is that the Chinese auto market is the biggest in the world – especially for EVs – and BMW will benefit from the huge economy of scale that GWM can provide. On the other hand, GWM will benefit from BMW’s quality of engineering. A win win for both partners.

        • one9deuce

          I guess we’re in agreement if you’re not excited about potentially made in China. I would be surprised if the platform partnership didn’t lead to one or more models eventually being built there. Disagree on the front end though, I don’t feel MINI looked sporty enough until the R56 and I think the F56 looks better. I like a big open grill and oval plexiglass covering round headlights though, so it definitely appeals to me.

        • Mr Remi

          What is the benefit of “Made in Britain” over “Made in China”?

        • one9deuce

          Plenty of great things are manufactured in China, I’m typing on one right now. The fact still remains though that the negative stigma of “Made in China” exists for a reason. And they are definitely not renowned for car manufacturing. Maybe that will change, but as of now I certainly don’t love the idea of this new partnership.

        • Mr Remi

          There is some irony that a brand saving move would necessitate a stigma-laden partnership.

        • one9deuce

          Agreed

        • Michael Lehnert

          Quite true, Mr Remi. 🙂

          In light of how the discussion above went, though, one could say that the true irony is that some here think that an R&D/OEM partnership with any Chinese corporations (while their ICE offerings may be below average, they are global leaders on electrification, Tesla aside) is some sort of stigma to the detriment of “Made in Britain” —— whereas even just a decade ago, “Made in Britain” was pretty much a deadly stigma itself in the global automotive sector.

          It took a wholesale takeover of the British automotive sector by Japan, Germany, India, and now China (LTI, Lotus) to give British cars some semblance of credibility back, after re-training the local workforce and displacing local management.

          So everyone hold their horses, and get off that weird convergence of jingoism and xenophobia. My personal experience is that the BMW/Brilliance Plant and Joint-R&D Center in Tiexi is superior to anything that could ever be made out of Plant Oxford or Swindon. And let’s face it: no EU company will invest the necessary €500m+ after “Brexit” into any UK automotive locations, like OX or SN, to bring it up to Chinese standards.

        • Nick Dawson

          I wouldn’t set too much store by what Herr Lehnert has to say. His rants and outrageously arrogant outburst, are symptomatic of an embittered and disappointed man. He is no fool, however, and he will know by now that the EU – that once glorious experiment – has failed, and that its days are numbered.

        • Michael Lehnert

          Eh? 🙂

          I am glad you still think your off-topic ad hominems you froth at me every time I post here mark you as a gentleman of distinction. Your class marks you.

          If there is a factual error or improbable content in my posts, please correct me with proper refutation.

          Otherwise, let me help you make your inevitable future ad hominems against “Mein Herr” (I fear American readers will miss the dog-whistle politics of your remark) less fallacious by informing you that I am British, in Britain, enjoy representing the UK abroad per my profession, and am anything but against the UK leaving the EU. But I admit I would not be so mischievous as to recommend to you betting your pension lump sum on the EU’s imminent destruction. 😉

        • Nick Dawson

          “Methinks thou doth protest too much” 🙂

        • Michael Lehnert

          Ehm, you are quoting Hamlet incorrectly, apply it meaninglessly (Shakespeare doesn’t deserve this), and still don’t address any substantive or on-topic points.

          If your trolling, plus your continued plagiarising of entire webpage texts that you then pretend here to have written yourself as your own posts is your idea of hoping to be perceived as a knowledgable expert, let alone fulfilling good netiquette, then please, go ahead and be your own guest.

          facepalm #movin’on

        • Nick Dawson

          Yes I am fully aware that it should be, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”, but I amended it accordingly to simply mean, “Calm down” or as my American cousins might say, “Relax”.

          Your second paragraph is impertinent, and unworthy of any further comment.

  • AnthLC

    This sounds really bad news one because the current Mini is becoming quiet dated and on grounds of safety, quality concerns

    I am happy with BMW engineering into the Mini brand and the developing of a new Mini platform is good decision.

    But I am not sure on Great Wall involvement they got a very bad reputation here in Australia on quality and safety.

    The current F56 model has turned around the poor reliably and maintenance faults previous Mini models had.

    It would be ashame if Mini reputation were to be tarnished because Great Wall wasn’t up to the task.

    Like previous opinions I have made I would reconsider buying a Great Wall Mini. Whether built in oxford or not my concern would be is the Mini built to the same standards.

    If was hyundai brands n30 platform. I be less worried as they built their own performance car from scratch with good engineering and have good reputation on quality and safety.

    I suppose wait on the details but the delay in new model will be bad for the brand overall.

  • Nick Dawson

    BMWs and the MINI Countryman have been assembled in India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand – using some local content – for many years now, and all have been well received in those countries.

    I can speak from personal experience with regard to the Malaysian assembly of the R60 Countryman, where I could detect absolutely no difference compared with my R60 built by Magna Steyr in Austria. Assembly of the F60 Countryman has just restarted in Malaysia, and will soon restart in the other South and Southeast Asian countries.