JCW is as fast as Minis will get for now

Published: 15 January 2015

As Mini unveils the new JCW, its most potent road-going model yet, at the 2015 Detroit motor show CAR catches up with the brand’s director Jochen Goller.

For the time being, he tells us, the John Cooper Works is as fast and powerful as Mini production cars are going to get.

‘I don’t think we need a car that’s much more extreme than this,’ he says. ‘‘There is always the possibility of a limited edition car, maybe 100 or 150, with even more power but that’s not what we have in mind currently.’

In our Q&A below, Goller also explains that Mini hasn’t yet given up on making the Superleggera a production reality and that there won’t be an electric Mini production car until battery packs get smaller and cheaper. Read on for the interview in full:

How important is John Cooper Works for Mini?

‘JCW is very important to Mini. Mini is about agility and that go-kart feeling. Even in the Mini One, the entry-level model, the go-kart feeling is still one of the main purchase reasons. Having the John Cooper Works at the top of the range, the ultimate go-kart feeling is really important. The JCW accounts for 4% of total Mini sales and it’s growing, and we’re hoping to expand that with the new John Cooper Works hatch. It’s important from a brand image perspective and a profitability perspective also.’

Is there room for a more powerful Mini above JCW?

‘There is always the possibility of a limited edition car, maybe 100 or 150, with even more power but that’s not what we have in mind currently. The new JCW is a regular series production car which you can use daily, and the difference between this JCW and the previous model is quite striking when you drive it. You have more power but also 25% more torque. This is a really powerful car, with strong acceleration. I don’t think we need a car that’s much more extreme than this.’ 

Is the new Clubman due this year?

‘Clubman will arrive in the fourth quarter of 2015, and the Geneva concept car gave a good impression of what to expect. When you look at the Mini model range, there are cars – our icons, if you like – that make evolutionary steps. Then you have cars like the Clubman where you can be more revolutionary.’

Which category does Countryman fall into?

‘We have a couple more years yet with the Countryman [which currently accounts for a third of UK Mini sales], but you can also expect a more revolutionary car when it is replaced. This is how will we expand the family in the future. Our portfolio is very successful but currently a lot of our cars are addressing the same customer groups. So in the future we want to focus on five strong characters meeting different needs. There is clearly the desire for an open car, the hatch and the Clubman. Beyond that we really haven’t decided. We see new crossover concepts all the time, there is big movement going on, so I couldn’t tell you today what the five hero cars are. Two are still evolving. Clearly an SUV is important, so Countryman will continue, but how does it need to look, to go after a different customer?’

Will the Superleggera concept see production?

‘From a brand perspective it would fit perfectly. We’ve shown the concept several times now and the feedback has been extremely positive. It shows that Mini can stretch in different directions. But it’s not easy any more for a large manufacturer to build small numbers of cars. Also the roadster market globally is shrinking, and we already have a successful open car in the convertible. But we haven’t given up.’

You have access to BMW’s electric powertrain expertise – can you see a hybrid or all-electric Mini?

‘If you want a range of 200 miles or so, which we think you need, you’re talking about a massive battery pack. Put that in a small car and I’m not sure how much of your go-kart feeling would remain. When batteries become smaller, more powerful and cheaper, we will react.’

Any motorsport plans beyond the Dakar?

‘For brand awareness we use the Dakar. Currently we are leading in the JCW Countryman and this is our global pinnacle. But we’ll now we’ll offer the JCW to the different markets to see whether they want to do grassroots race series – this is more Mini.’ 


By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three