By on July 22, 2019

Mini might not make sense as a automotive company anymore, at least not in the United States. Consumer tastes have shifted away from small cars and practically everyone is interested in crossovers these days. While this issue has been less pronounced in Europe, where the Mini has enjoyed an uptick in sales, the brand has been struggling in North America. U.S. volumes are comparatively low and have been on the decline since 2015. It’s not a total disaster, but annual deliveries have been wallowing south of 50,000 units for a couple of years now. Nobody can pretend there isn’t a problem.

The fix, according to parent company BMW Group, is to fill up Mini’s product portfolio with crossover vehicles while also giving the little Hardtop a bit of love. 

Broadening the lineup makes sense, one only needs to take a gander at Porsche’s bottom line for evidence. But, unlike Porsche, Mini isn’t getting out ahead of the curve so much as it’s playing catch up. It’s also called Mini, making the move toward larger vehicles more than a little ironic. However, let’s not forget how meaningless the backlash against Porsche’s change in strategy turned out to be after the Cayenne and Macan started spinning straw into gold.

In a recent interview with Automotive News, BMW Group sales head Pieter Nota explained that the Mini brand would pursue new products. While the Hardtop is poised to go electric, at least to some degree, the rest of the line is supposed to be fleshed out via bigger models — namely crossovers.

“That’s a growing segment,” Nota said. “Without revealing anything, we will see growth in that segment.”

Nota also confirmed that the brand wouldn’t be abandoning the United States like Smart did. “Unlike some of our competitors, we are not turning our back to the U.S.,” he explained. “We see that even as an opportunity.”

That would seem to suggest the brand will go hard with crossovers. Nota expressed excitement for the new Mini Electric and John Cooper Works, but neither are likely to move in meaningful numbers inside of North America. They’re both small cars, the JCW won’t have much appeal outside of the enthusiast crowd, and the Mini Electric (now called the SE) is expected to have a lackluster range and be ill-suited for American tastes.

“We wanted to avoid putting too much weight and too much cost into the car [with a larger battery],” Nota said, adding that the Mini’s range would be “optimal” for in-town driving.

While the brand is obviously looking at promoting electrification, Mini’s overarching plan will likely mimic BMW’s. Expect a broader array of powertrains — with all-electric being an option, rather than a requirement. “What we see in global markets is that the rate of acceptance of electric mobility is differing,” Nota said. “But we do see overall an increase in the acceptance of electrification.”


[Image: Casimiro PT/Shutterstock]


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29 Comments on “BMW Group Plotting More Crossovers for Mini Lineup...”

  • avatar
    R Henry

    “the rest of the line is supposed to be fleshed out via bigger models — namely crossovers.”

    Will it ever end?

    –Methinks just as Mini get’s their 2.0T powered crossovers tooled up, gasoline will hit $5.00/gal and the market will seek economy cars….and they won’t have any.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      It seems like madness but I’m having difficulties finding an alternative solution for Mini (outside of better marketing). Since automakers are unable, or unwilling, to make small cars cool they have to chase the crossover trend to move metal. I suppose they could also try to develop small cars that significantly undercut crossover prices (risky in the U.S.), but then we’re looking at slimmer margins. They need every dime to appease investors and pay for electrification R&D.

      • 0 avatar

        The problem with the brand is in its name, small cars have small profits and to make matters worse small cars don’t sell, at least here. To further insult to injury, BMW has seemingly drained the unique nature of the brand from it, the cars are priced sky high and the engines belong in cars that sell for 1/3 of the price. The brand has hit a wall and I don’t see a way forward for them.

        • 0 avatar

          “Oh I know let’s build crossovers like every other idiot and their brother.” – MINI Brand Managers

          Oy we are very quickly going to find out how many dang crossovers the market will bear.

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        There is no solution. The MINI brand is fully linked to the British automotive icon. There is no way to extricate the brand from that heritage.

        Fact is BMW owned the rights to the brand, and needed a small, fashionable car in its corporate portfolio. Now, that moment has passed, and the brand needs to be retired. It was a decent run, but now it is done. Like Hummer, the automotive world has moved on. The first loss is the best loss. Sorry MINI, you are dead.

        • 0 avatar

          Unsubstantiated rumors indicate that BMW, always a fan of acronyms, will market their slightly larger vehicles under a new sub-brand, the MAXI.

          And in defiance of the ubiquitious CUV/SUV acronyms, their smallish sporty utility vehicles will be called Personal Automotive Devices.

          The first two models of the highly anticipated new generation will be called the MINI PAD and the MAXI PAD.

          • 0 avatar
            R Henry

            I have been trying for 15 minutes to formulate a similarly pithy response using either KOTEX, TAMPAX, or TAMPON, but have come up short. Well done!

    • 0 avatar

      IIRC AMC Gremlin had 5L V8. It would be cool it Mini did they same.

  • avatar

    Sometimes your just relieved to not be a fan of a particular brand, today is one of those days for Mini.

    Full-size trucks are also a pretty big game, when can we expect to see Mini enter that ring?

  • avatar

    I used to drive a 2012 Countryman S. It was – uh – okay. There was plenty of passenger room and more than enough legroom for my 6’2″ but no worthy luggage space worth mentioning. A week-long trip with wife and son was uh, very claustrophobic with our luggage and bought goodies littering the backseat and minimal hatch area.

    Power, with the turbocharged 1.6L, was underwhelming. Not exactly slow but still not all that exciting either. And the handling was ponderous – at least compared to the 2003 Mini hardtop S, and the 2009 Clubman S I’ve driven before.

    Oh and the (same?) climate control system, while working for the Clubman, was deficient with the Countryman. Too much interior space to reliably cool in the summer or heat a Michigan winter.

    It was this CUV, and the high repair costs and horrible reliability of that 2009 that made me swear off MINI for the rest of my days. Well, minus a 1st gen supercharged GP version, but that would be a summer-only if I had the cash.

    • 0 avatar

      “It was – uh – okay.”
      “Not exactly slow but still not all that exciting either.”

      Sounds like they’ve built a mainstream CUV then. Problem is they charge premium pricing for it.

  • avatar

    Beat that dead horse!

  • avatar

    Next up – how about some Smart CUVs?

  • avatar

    The problem is Mini volume doesn’t justify the largely independent dealer network, and they would be better off simply being a retro/sport/small car brand in the BMW dealer portfolio, particularly since they are all built on BMW platforms these days. Doing so would give them a much bigger dealer network which might boost sales volume, while providing lower operating costs. For example, a Countryman might work for my parents, but the nearest dealer is 200 miles away (while a BMW dealer is 5 miles away), so they wouldn’t even consider a Mini even though my mom likes the styling and the size works for them.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Note to Mini…

    Step 1: Change your name.

    Step 2: Stop basing everything on the Cooper (see Exhibit A – Fiat).

  • avatar

    Crossover all the things!

  • avatar

    Shouldn’t think BMW is sweating too much. The BMW X1 and X2 are the same UK-L1 or 2 platforms underneath as MINI and are selling well to the poseurs worldwide. Same basic engines, etc. diesels and all. In fact MINI got the new ones starting with the triple B37 diesel/B38 gas before BMW shovelled the 2.0l gas B48 in the 3 Series. After 5 years of the benighted N20 chewing up cam chain guides, that is — they even made money off that dog by flogging the production equipment to Vinfast of Vietnam. The newish B48 comes in four flavors. 189hp for cheapo Minis, 228 hp for upper MINIs and lower front drive BMWs, 248 hp for 3 Series and 300 odd for the flash Harry set. Yawn.

    There is one big fat giant MINI already, I think it’s the Countryman. One pulled up next to my Legacy and dwarfed it, which made me laugh at the crossover horse manure conformity people have sunk to these days. According to C/D 3615 pounds or add 300 for the hybrid. I mean, just how phat do you want your MINI to be? It needs to go on a diet as it is. Makes a Mazda CX-5 Turbo seem svelte and a helluva buy compared to these lost creatures. Issigonis would just shake his head at the uselessness of it all.

    The other thing BMW needs to do is combine the MiNI into BMW dealerships like they do here in Canada. Might sell a few more to the fashionista set during the lunch hour. I really don’t have much time for BMW in general these days. No innovation in them, and the smarmiest salesmen around, thinking they’re selling gold at a discount the way they attempt to talk down to you. Reality is not allowed in their stores so the BMW myth can continue unabated among the well-off not-too-bright set.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Mini Countryman pick-up. A BMW turbo-4 in a mini (no pun intended) truck. Brown.Diesel. Stick. You know you want it.

  • avatar

    One thing MINI could bring to the table (even in a larger vehicle) would be their quirky and very customizable character. If they keep that I think they have a chance of succeeding. They may have to take a few more chances with the bodywork, however. I’ve never particularly liked the bloated hardtop look of the Countryman (latest version is better). And, for the love of pete, bigger vehicles need bigger engines. The 2.0L turbo in the hardtop MINI Cooper S is a ball of fun (with a manual), but it doesn’t quite have enough oomph for the heavier Countryman.

    Just for context, I’ve owned all three generations of the new MINI in hardtop Cooper S with a manual. I’ve moved on to an electric (i3s) last year for my daily driver, but I hope to be in a position in a couple of years to snag an MCS w/manual as a fun car before they’re gone.

  • avatar

    IMHO retro BEV is an oxymoron. BEV should be futuristic like Tesla. On the other hand with universal BEV chassis we are going back to BOF designs and may be we will relive 50s-60s designs all over again. Futuristic cars with fins and other stuff.

  • avatar

    Mini Cooper ——- Maxi Cooper

  • avatar

    A company can keep turning out crap for a while and live off nostalgia and reputation, but that corporate laziness eventually catches up with you. Mini isn’t and never was a premium brand. There JCW versions are ok, but they are little more than gussied up Volkswagens.

    VW just killed the Beatle. BMW should do the same with mini.

  • avatar

    At the risk of foisting the writing style guide of we commenters on TTAC editors and contributors, ‘MINI’ denotes the 2002-2019 product built by BMW, and ‘Mini’ distinquishes the circa 1959-2010ish totally British products that inspired the BMW MINI. Even apart from commenting on TTAC articles, this is the style I use online to distinquish the two products with two different origins.

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