If you’ve been following our recent articles in MINIs move to electric, you’ll likely be aware of a major flaw in the plan. In 2018 the US government imposed a 25% on all electric vehicles (and components) coming into the country from China. At the time MINI was in the middle of finalizing its plans with Great Wall Motors to collaborate on a platform that would form the basis of the next generation MINI Cooper (J01) and MINI Aceman crossover (J02). This sudden geo-political twist mandated a shift in strategy for MINI and the decision to bring the Chinese made, electric MINIs to the US was effectively cancelled.
Before we go further, lets recap MINI’s plans. Starting in late 2023, MINI will be releasing a new generation of cars and crossovers with a focus on all electrification. Made in the UK, a revised F56 (G66) with internal combustion (ICE) is sticking around for another ten years (as is the manual transmission) but the focus for MINI is on electrification across the line-up. This will start with an all new electric MINI Cooper which will be made in China and will pack much more range and performance in a smaller package than the current car. That will immediately followed by both an all electric and ICE Countryman (made in Germany).
The plan was to rely on the heavily modified F56 two door and F55 four door (to be called the F66 and F65) along with the all new, German made Countryman (U25) for the US market. But a funny thing happened. The pace of adoption of electric vehicles increased beyond expectations and sales of the electric F56 have been far better than expected.
How could MINIUSA overcome the 25% tariff on a small car with razor thin margins? There are several scenarios. The first (and the only one discussed publicly) would be to combine a slightly higher price with a reduction in dealer margin to make the car (slightly) profitable. The rational would be to build the brand’s EV credentials in the near term.
But why can’t MINI simply move all production to the UK? Given the thousands of components in the car (many Chinese), a move like that would be incredibly hard from a supply chain perspective. It would also not solve the tariff issues given those Chinese components would still be affected.
What about sourcing new components? That’s a clear strategy and one that we believe MINI is focused on. But sourcing, testing, validating, pricing and ultimately bringing them into the supply chain for production will take years.
If we read between the lines, we believe MINI is working on several strategies in parallel to keep the latest MINI products in the US market. The first would be to use several economic levers to make the next generation (Chinese made) electric MINI Cooper financially viable in the US. The second is to begin a parallel sourcing of components (along with what could be a mid-cycle refresh) to bring these next generation cars to Oxford to be produced in MINI’s historical home.
The last point would be critical if MINI wants to transition entirely to electric cars by the early 2030s. They’ll need to solve these issues sooner later, why not solve both problems at once and have the J01 and J02 be made in England paving the way for their successors around 2030.
Or MINI could simply carry over the current F56 based electric hatch into the new G66 and call it a day for the US markets. But that seems counterintuitive for a brand so focused on the future.
What would you like to see from MINI USA and are you excited about the Chinese made all electric MINI Cooper?