If you’ve been following comments on MotoringFile recently you’ll now there’s been some great discussion about the 2023 4th Generation MINI. The original intent was for BMW to replace the current F56 in 2020. Seven year product cycles is how BMW does business and deviating from that is very rare for the Bavarian automaker. However due to a number or reasons BMW will do just that with the current generation MINI and will extend its life by at least three years.
Why BMW is Delaying the 4th Generation MINI and Keeping the F56 Around?
BMW needs to drive costs down. They also need to create a platform that will better suit small MINIs and the brand. The current UKL platform work if only just. While the F56 is a great car and the highest quality MINI ever produced, it’s expensive to produce and oh man that front overhang. In other words it could have been a bit better tailored for the MINI brand and price-point.
The follow-up to the UKL is BMW’s FAAR platform which will be slightly larger and even more sophisticated. Because of that it simply isn’t ideal as the basis for the next generation of small MINIs. Therefore BMW needed to either continue to revise the UKL platform for a second generation (not ideal given the need for MINI to become electric) or produce an entirely new small platform.
The problem with the latter is that even a revised platform cost hundreds or millions of dollars to bring to market. With annual sales of under 400,000 units that just doesn’t make sense. Because of this BMW is partnering with Great Wall Motors to build a future platform for small MINIs.
Enter the Chinese – BMW to Partner with Great Wall Motors on Next Generation Small MINI
The thinking goes that this will give BMW the economies of scale to create something both better suited to the MINI brand and offer more technology and performance than they could have afforded to create on their own. It also gives them additional production capability in China for the upcoming F Series electric MINI hatch (due in late 2019/early 2020). These cars will be built in China for the Asian market vs electric MINIs built in Oxford meant for all other markets.
It also gives MINI a partner to push into the very expensive world of small car electrification. 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.
Will All 4th Generation Small MINIs be Electric?
We believe that BMW has made the strategic decision to make the next generation of small MINIs all electric. However (and this is important) that could change depending worldwide trends. Currently many brands are in a wait a see mode with electric vehicles. They know they’re the future but they’re not exactly sure when that future will be a reality. And they also know that that reality will be different for different regions/countries. Porsche for instance has announced that he next generation Macan will be all electric. Yet they’ve also said they’ll continue to sell the current ICE version alongside until demand wanes.
Over the past year BMW has been very consistent with their messaging around a strategy to basically do it all in the mid-term. That means the FAAR and other platforms will be able to accept electric, hybrid and ICE powertrains. In other words the next generation Countryman and its derivatives will be sold with an ICE powertrain along with a hybrid and electric model.
The reason is that the global markets are inconsistent and unstable in their demands all-electric cars. There are some regions/countries (Scandinavia and China for instance) that are aggressively supporting electric cars through legislation. There are others (the US and Russia) that are moving away from that support. Then there’s the constantly fluctuating gas prices which are expected to remain quite low for North America in the near future that are impacting the thinking as well. All this is pushing BMW’s strategy of wait and see in most models.
Except it would seem the small MINI range.
How Long Will the F56 Live-on?
This is where are crystal ball gets cloudy. If BMW sticks with a late 2022/2023 launch of the next generation MINI hatch, that would mean the current F56 generation of small MINIs (the F55 five door, F56 three door and F57 convertible) would end production in 2022. However we could see the current range live-on even longer if the electric cars adoption rate slows in the next few years. In other words we can imagine BMW watching the market very closely before as it gears up to make such a big bet on an all electric future of the small MINI.
The good news for fans of the F56 is that this means we’ll likely see even more refinement of the current car. More power and other upgrades are already planned for the JCW range. We could also see slightly styling tweaks as as well to keep interest in the current car alive and well.