Peering Into Mini's Tentative Electrification Plan
Automakers find themselves in the midst of a widespread electrification effort. However, the slow adoption rate of these vehicles has created some trepidation. Rather than roll out fleets of EVs en masse, most manufacturers have chosen to adopt platforms allowing for multiple powertrain configurations, relegating electrics to entirely new sub-brands or transforming lesser nameplates into EV brands.
Daimler is a good example of this. Mercedes-Benz has its EQ sub-brand, while Smart was rejiggered into a nameplate entirely focused on “electro-mobility.”
BMW Group will likely take a similar route with Mini. The brand’s first fully fledged EV is fast approaching, with the company repeatedly suggesting that it might reposition itself as an electric-focused nameplate. Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW board member and Papa Bear to Mini, Rolls-Royce, and BMW Motorrad (motorcycles), is the man responsible for overseeing the shift, and has offered up a tentative glimpse into Mini’s future.
Schwarzenbauer was interviewed by Automotive News this week. The short-and-sweet gist of that convo is that Mini absolutely intends to make every vehicle in its lineup electric — but it doesn’t plan on rushing headlong into EV-only territory. Like BMW itself, Mini will utilize modular platforms capable of accommodating an array of platforms. When asked if the brand should ditch internal combustion engines, like Smart has, Schwarzenbauer painted a pretty clear picture.
“Electromobility is an excellent fit for our urban, progressive and open-minded customers. The success of the Mini Countryman plug-in hybrid, which accounted for 13 percent of the model’s global sales last year, demonstrates that. To secure the long-term future of Mini, we will enable the range to be all electric, should the customer prefer that,” he explained.
“The key issue is we do not know how quickly electric mobility will spread, so it was strategically important to leave this option open depending on the circumstance. Let me be clear, though, there will not be a single Mini model we plan to launch that a customer won’t be able to order with an electrified drivetrain. The joint venture we founded in China together with Great Wall Motors is in part to ensure that.”
Those Chinese models will not be limited to China, however. While Schwarzenbauer admitted exports are not a guarantee, it is part of the overall strategy.
Schwarzenbauer was also asked about BMW’s mobility program with Daimler. The unlikely team intends to spend 1 billion euros on developing co-owned mobility services. However, the question didn’t revolve around what they were working on, but how long that money would last. While these types of ventures are a hot property for tech firms and automakers, they frequently manifest as money pits with no clear pathway to profitability.
“We shouldn’t view this issue through the same lens as our traditional business, where you invest a certain sum, there is a defined start of production and so on,” Schwarzenbauer said.
“It could be that tomorrow one of our services has an idea that wasn’t part of the business plan and then the funds are exhausted more quickly. It’s also possible the funds last longer than expected because attractive opportunities don’t materialize. Market conditions change much more rapidly in this sector than in our more traditional business areas.”
Getting back to Mini’s first EV, BMW Group doesn’t feel comfortable releasing any details. It’s saving everything for the model’s September debut ahead of the Frankfurt Auto Show. Assembly will commence in Oxford in the second half of 2019; Schwarzenbauer said he expects the vehicle to go on sale in early 2020.
[Image: BMW Group]
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