Last week we asked you to send in your questions to MINI USA’s Product Manager Vincent Kung. The idea that we would pick the top ten and present them to Mr. Kung (aka Vinnie) and report back. Well it’s time for the answers. We sat down (virtually) with Vinnie and got those ten questions answered.

Product updates:

MF Reader Question: Will the brake duct kit become available for standard ( non-aero kit ) cars? 

Vincent Kung, MINI USA Product Manager: No, it is exclusively for the JCW aero kit. 

MF: Will MINI ever have an opaque retractable sunscreen for the moonroof? It kind of defeats the purpose of a glass panel if you need to put vinyl film on it to make it opaque. 

Vinnie: This has been a hot topic since the R56 was introduced. Right now, there has been no confirmation of changing the suncreen to a more solid or completely solid sunshade, which we’ve been fighting for over two years to get.

MF: How about the mid-cycle refresh on the R56, what kind of changes can we expect there? Anything regarding the interior?  Taking comments from our new and existing customers, the interior design team has noted specific items that can be improved upon.

Vinnie: While I cannot say exactly what will change, let’s just say that the moment your right hand wants to reach for something, it will be rewarded with more tactile and direct control. 

MF: What can you tell us about the cold start problems that some R56 MINIs have had. Is there an official fix? If so when was this made in terms of production schedule? If not when can we expect that? 

Vinnie: I have not heard anything from our technical engineering or warranty teams, who handle issues like this one. They typically reach out to the field engineering team first, who then works with your dealer’s service department to take care of any technical issue, whether it’s an issue with the engine or a loose trim piece.

Future products: 

MF: The R56, R55 and upcoming SUV all have taken Mini in a progressively bigger and more expensive direction than the R50/R53. Is there anything on the drawing board that would excite those of us hoping for at least a smaller, if not less expensive, Mini variant in the future?  

Vinnie: The drawing boards are always filled with ideas that can make it to the showroom floor. Just like anything, we have to see if there is a market for such a car, and then see if we can price it accordingly. The biggest hurdle we have as a vehicle manufacturer is making a specific design meet ever-stringent government requirements for worldwide standards in crash testing, pedestrian impact, safety, fuel economy and performance. This is one of the reasons why the R50/R52 grew in size when it transitioned to the R56 (we also got a little more interior room in the process.) Even though these topics sound boring, we spend the bulk of our development dollars in meeting the rules. After that, the fun starts as we incorporate new technologies such as power, styling and other cool options.

Over time, the price of new MINIs have crept up but it’s simply to keep up with the marketplace. For instance, the 2009 R56 Cooper went up $500 in price, but we did not make a profit. The $500 paid for DSC being standard, which we need to do anyhow by 2010 for the upcoming federal mandate to have DSC standard. So as far as pricing goes, it’s always a tightrope we have to walk on. So as you can see, we work with ideas all day long and often times, get shut down by numerous factors, but we keep the good fight going.

MF: Any updates on the Mini Cooper D (or any other MINI Diesel) making it’s way to the United States? 

Vinnie: Yes, there are updates. 

MF: Why not build/revive a Triumph roadster? There were many rumors of this a couple of years ago. 

Vinnie: The Triumph name will be used when the time and product is right. As of now, nothing is in the works for it.

JCW Related

MF: Any plans for an R56 GP 2.0? 

Vinnie: The 2006 GP was a unique model and we intend to keep it that way. 

MF: Any word on how much longer dealer installed JCW kits will be available for the first gen MINIs (R50-53)? Will there be a “close-out” or clearance of first gen performance parts? 

Vinnie: Like when any car goes out of production, we keep supplies in stock for customers and dealers as they need them. There have been instances where we’ve balanced inventory and we will continue to do so if we have to.

MF: Will we see the standard content of the JCW changed in the US like it was in the UK? I plan on trading my 06 MCS next year and will get a JCW if the price/Standard content gets better. 

Vinnie: Definitely maybe. 

A huge thanks to Vinnie for taking the time to answer these questions. We know it’s hard to straddle the line sometimes with information that isn’t for public consumption while trying to answer questions but it’s very much appreciated!