If you exist outside the fast-paced world of the automotive branding community, you might believe that the point of car brands is to sell cars. Needless to say, you’d be wrong. The big buzzword around car brands, particularly the more niche and eco-friendly brands is “mobility.” As in “we must leverage our brand values to provide a broad-based mobility strategy for the cities of the future.” Or, to put it into layman’s terms, “screw cars, we gotta start building scooters.”
How does a brand built on small, fun, efficient city cars build up to its inevitable first-ever SUV? Apparently the answer is very little. MINI’s seems to be aiming its forthcoming Countryman squarely at current MINI owners, with the first US market ads portraying the Countryman as little more than a MINI Cooper with four doors and All-Wheel-Drive (as opposed to Subaru-style outdoor lifestyle marketing). In other words, it’s not so much a Countryman as a city hipster with a flair for rural evangelism. But are four doors, AWD and a “sliding center rail” enough to bring new buyers into the fold? There’s almost no doubt that the Countryman will be a hot fashion item for a while, but the world’s first Austrian-built MINI is going to face high prices, weak power in the base spec (1.6 liters moving over 3k lbs), and intra-brand anti-SUV snobbery. On the plus side, it’s apparently very hip.
MINI’s new six-model lineup gets an early preview, as the Cooper, Convertible, Clubman, Countryman, Coupe and Roadster meet up outside MINI’s plant in Oxford, England. The Countryman SUV won’t arrive in the states until February 2011, with the Coupe and Roadster following by six and 12 months respectively.
It appears that MINI’s challenge to Porsche won’t play out at the racetrack. The following letter [via MotorAuthority] is Porsche USA’s Detlev Von Platen’s response to MINI’s Jim McDowell.
Imagine our surprise to discover our former employee, now the head of Mini, has challenged us to a head-to-head race. As you surely know, Porsche has a long history of racing success, with more than 28,000 wins over the last 60 years. In our early days, we pitted ourselves against the giants, so we’ve been in your shoes.
But as you also know, Porsche doesn’t race for fame, stunts or publicity. We race to challenge ourselves; we race to push sports car technology; we race to translate every win on the track to our cars on the road. If you need a reminder of our intent, please take a look at this short video: http://tinyurl.com/37xdjqx
The Volkswagen brand grew sales across all nameplates other than the Chrysler-rebadge Routan minivan, en route to a 42 percent overall volume increase. Audi maintained its momentum, with a 33 percent improvement over its 2009 sales, on strong sales from the A5 and Q5. The new E-Class drove the Mercedes brand to a 21 percent improvement, although Smart was down nearly 50 percent to 680 units. Despite 50+ percent drops in 5- and 6-Series volume, BMW managed to hang onto a nine percent volume increase, including a five percent improvement by the MINI brand. Ze Germans may be focused on China in the long term, but for now they’re back to methodically growing their US-market business.
While the autoblogosphere frets bout whether BMW drivers can tell which wheels drive their cars, the real news in the BMW-goes-FWD storyline is the impact that the sea change in brand strategy is expected to have on volume. Automotive News [sub] reports that BMW is developing a new family of modular gas and diesel engines, which are intended “primarily for BMW’s new front-wheel-drive architecture, but the powerplants also will be used in the automaker’s rear-wheel-drive cars,” according to CEO Norbert Reithofer. And the volume at which this new family of three, four and six-cylinder engines will be produced is one of the early indications of where BMW is going with its FWD expansion. Today, BMW sells just under 1.3m vehicles worldwide. That’s fewer cars than will be powered by this new family of engines alone, which Reithofer says will motivate 1.5m vehicles worldwide. Considering BMW’s goal is to sell 2m vehicles of all its brands by 2020, it’s clear that much of that growth will be made possible by new FWD-inclusive drivetrain technology.
Today’s tester is a Red Alfa Romeo. So I really shouldn’t be telling you how its name is derived from the cities of Milano and Torino. I shouldn’t be revealing that it’s based on the Fiat Punto and I really needn’t elaborate about its underhood gadgetry, because in days of yore, “Red” was all you needed to know about an Alfa Romeo. On the other hand, to paraphrase Dylan, things have changed.
BMW is playing some PR roulette at the DC Auto Show [via Autoblog Green] with a “study” ostensibly proving that people who lease an electric MINI are “delighted” with the car. As if self-selection weren’t already an issue in a study of people who voluntarily spend $850 per month on a small hatchback, the 57 respondents (out of 450 MINI E guinea pigs) were (you guessed it) self-selected. Why the University of California Davis allows its name to appear on this blatant PR fabrication is difficult to fathom. Especially considering the MINI E rollout was a disaster, the product was compromised, and there are plenty of MINI E critics out there.
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- Ollicat I have a Spyder. The belt will last for many years or 60,000-80,000 miles. Not really a worry.
- Redapple2 Cadillac and racing. Boy those 2 go together dont they? What a joke. Up there with opening a coffee shop in NYC. EvilGM be clowning. Again.
- Jbltg Rear bench seat does not match the front buckets. What's up?
- Theflyersfan The two Louisville truck plants are still operating, but not sure for how much longer. I have a couple of friends who work at a manufacturing company in town that makes cooling systems for the trucks built here. And they are on pins and needles wondering if or when they get the call to not go back to work because there are no trucks being made. That's what drives me up the wall with these strikes. The auto workers still get a minimum amount of pay even while striking, but the massive support staff that builds components, staffs temp workers, runs the logistics, etc, ends up with nothing except the bare hope that the state's crippled unemployment system can help them keep afloat. In a city where shipping (UPS central hub and they almost went on strike on August 1) and heavy manufacturing (GE Appliance Park and the Ford plants) keeps tens of thousands of people employed, plus the support companies, any prolonged shutdown is a total disaster for the city as well. UAW members - you're not getting a 38% raise right away. That just doesn't happen. Start a little lower and end this. And then you can fight the good fight against the corner office staff who make millions for being in meetings all day.
- Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )