To understand MINI’s strategy for the 4th Generation MINI, you’ll want to start by looking at the Porsche 911. For 2023 MINI is working on a ground-up redesign of its iconic hatch focusing on an evolutionary approach similar to how Porsche’s has evolved the 911. Smaller, iconic and evolutionary are the words that Bernd Köerber (Senior Vice President MINI) used when describing the all new 2023 MINI hatch. But expect more than just subtle changes below the surface. Tellingly Köerber expects the 2023 MINI hatch to be the biggest shift we’ve seen from the brand since the launch of the R50 MINI in 2001.
Recently we sat down with Bernd Köerber and Oliver Heilmer, Vice President MINI Design via Zoom to talk about a many aspects of the brand, the new Urbanaut concept and the future might look like. Clearly the biggest topic at hand was the next generation of MINIs, recently signed-off on and currently in early stages of development. Even with the Urbanaut recently taking center stage, it was talk of this new 4th generation MINI that got both Bernd Köerber and Oliver Heilmer talking
When asked how difficult it is to redefine the design of the iconic MINI hatch – they both jumped in to answer. Oliver Heilmer started; “MINI has such strong roots. On one hand you want to be as careful as possible. On the other you want to give the brand a chance to reinvent itself. Vision vehicles help us a lot in this case. We don’t have to follow our previous icons when it comes to vision. (But) we can’t change too many things in one step for production.”
Our customers have made it clear; don’t screw with an icon!Bernd Köerber | Senior Vice President MINI
When pressed about what makes a MINI and MINI, Oliver stressed; “it’s not just lights and grill but the proportion, compact feeling and friendly personality.”
Bernd Jumped in; “Our customers have made it clear; don’t screw with an icon! We get this. And since we’re not competing directly, we compare ourselves with Porsche in this instance.”
It’s the biggest step since the new MINI 20 years ago.Bernd Köerber | Senior Vice President MINI
But even Porsche has grown while retaining its iconic status Bernd Köerber explained. “Porsche has had to take a step and go beyond what the brand has historically been associated with. And now they have a much broader portfolio (Including SUVs and sedans). The key is that the portfolio has to have the brand DNA inside.“
All well and good but we wanted to know more directly what to expect from the 4th generation MINI.
Oliver began; for ‘23 we have modernized it. It’s the biggest step since the new MINI 20 years ago. And starting with ‘23 it’s not just about a new generation of all the same products we have today. We need to evolve the line-up.
“Visually there are elements that the Urban is previewing.” Oliver Heilmer Explained. “The Urbanaut is meant as a provocation. But there are design details from the 2023 actually integrated in this car! Especially in the interior where we’ll see some things translated. The form language will be reduced as much as possible. It’s a pragmatic starting point to say… if we don’t have a shoulder-line in the body of the car, we have more space to work with inside. Surfaces are clean and this (philosophy) comes from the first MINIs. This is really from 1959. We are a humble brand. We like to provide concrete answers to some of the modern design challenges. ”
We don’t want to stand still with the 3 door hatch.Bernd Köerber | Senior Vice President MINI
What about the growth of the MINI ranges the new variants? Bernd Köerber jumped in; ”We won’t do stupid things. Only where the brand makes sense and stays true to its roots.”
It was a fantastic and very organic discussion that left the lasting impression that the MINI brand is in the right hands with these two. An appreciation for the past mingled with a clear view of the future was clearly evident in their approach to the next generation MINI’s line-up.
While we were doing the normal Zoom long goodbye Bernd Köerber left us with one last hint of what’s coming; “We don’t want to stand still with the 3 door hatch.”
That seems like the type of hint that is setting us up something some pretty exciting and something that could even be a bit challenging at first sight. Luckily we have two more years go prepare.