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Mini range to shrink to five models

Published: 27 November 2014

The time for niche-filling is over: the current, third-generation Mini range will concentrate on five models only, the brand’s chief Peter Schwarzenbauer has confirmed.

Currently there are seven branches of Mini models available: the three-door and five-door hatches plus the Countryman, Paceman, Convertible, Roadster and Coupe.

Speaking to CAR magazine, Schwarzenbauer (BMW board member in charge of the Mini brand, plus Rolls-Royce and motorcycles) admitted: ‘Now for Mini, less is more. We now have the capability of many more models. Technically there is the possibility. But is this the right thing to do?’

Apparently not. Schwarzenbauer revealed that the board has decided to move away from a broad Mini product portfolio and will instead concentrate on five key models, nicknamed ‘superheroes’.

What are the five Mini superheroes?

Moving forward, there will be five Mini bodystyles:

1) The core three-door Mini hatch
2) The new five-door Mini hatch
3) The Mini Countryman (recently facelifted but due for replacement before too long)
4) The new Mini Clubman (coming in 2015)

And the fifth? Schwarzenbauer has previously told CAR’s Georg Kacher that the superheroes should include ‘at least one open-top model.’

The 2014 Mini Superleggera concept car was name-checked a great deal during the announcement (at a preview of a new Mini exhibition at BMW’s Munich museum), with Mini’s chief designer Anders Warming speaking particularly passionately about its importance as a demonstration of how far the brand can be stretched.

Whether that means we can expect a mildly toned-down production version of the Superleggera to replace the Mini roadster or, as seems more likely, a more straightforward Cabrio version of the hatch taking its styling cues from the Superleggera, remains to be seen.

Can we expect any superpowers from future Minis?

Electrification, for one. ‘There is no question for me that Mini, an urban brand, must offer an electric vehicle soon,’ Schwarzenbauer explained. ‘I am confident that we will have smaller, lighter, more powerful batteries sooner than most people think.’

According to Schwarzenbauer, in the near future (beyond around 2020 or 2025, he believes) drivers will almost certainly be prevented from taking their cars into most downtown areas around the world without at least some form of electric drive.

BMW’s continued development of plug-in hybrid technology and components makes a plug-in Mini model more viable, he says, with a pure electric Mini on the cards further down the line. No firm information on either model’s ETA just yet, though.

Either way, Schwarzenbauer suggests an electric Mini would need a minimum electric-only range of 50km (30 miles) to be accepted by punters.

What else is on the horizon for Mini?

Even more personalisation options. A greater number of buyers are opting for higher-powered, more highly equipped models with top Cooper S trims accounting for 34% of Minis sold this year, compared with 24% in 2010. Mini plans to expand its optional equipment and aftersales business accordingly.

You’ll be able to buy a Mini of your choice 24 hours a day, seven days a week soon, too. ‘How people purchase has changed completely [in recent years],’ Schwarzenbauer said. 'People are used to 24/7 buying culture, not restricted by opening hours. Customers are asking us about this.’

Mini has posted healthy sales figures for October and November in 2014, with double-digit growth year-on-year and a similar outcome expected for December. The sales owe a great deal of their buoyancy to the introduction of the latest-generation hatch earlier in the year along with the introduction of the new five-door model, however.

 

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

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