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Mini Goes Upscale with Countryman Park Lane

Brand hopes new entry will propel it to best sales year ever.

by on Mar.04, 2015

Mini's new Countryman Park Lane is an upscale, luxury version of the car. Mini officials are expecting a best-ever sales year.

Mini gets the most bang for its buck by offering variants of its cars, such as its John Cooper Works model. Instead of going for speed with its newest special edition, Mini went upscale with the Countryman Park Lane.

The compact luxury segment is booming and the Countryman Park Lane ensures it isn’t missing out on the trend. In fact, making it sure it was able to jump on the luxury compact wave is one reason why David Duncan, vice president Mini of the Americas, told at the Detroit Auto Show he expected 2015 to be a banner sales year.

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“I would expect 2015 would be our best year ever in the U.S.,” he said. The company’s sales were down 16% in 2014, but that was due, in some measure, to limited availability to some models, Duncan added. (more…)

Mini Paring Back Line-Up

British marque dropping three models, according to top exec.

by on Dec.01, 2014

Mini chief Peter Schwarzenbauer at the L.A. Auto Show debut of the CitySurfer and Superleggera concepts.

For such a little car, Mini has grown a big line-up since its 2002 return to the U.S. market. But the British brand may be ready to pare back its line-up to a more rational mix of models, according to a senior executive.

From its smallest three-door to the big five-door Countryman crossover, Mini now offers eight different models, and there were hints still more were on the way. But Peter Schwarzenbauer, the former Porsche chief who now serves as the BMW Board member overseeing Mini, wants to cut that count down to five “superhero” models.

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“Like a superhero, each of these cars has its own personality and unique capabilities,” Schwarzenbauer declared during an event near BMW’s Munich headquarters. “It is important to find the right balance between growth, on the one hand, and profitability, on the other.”


Mini Might Add Three More Models

Little Rocketman is one option, though British brand could get bigger options, too, execs hint.

by on Feb.05, 2013

Mini may yet bring the Rocketman to production.

With the new Paceman coming onboard, Mini will now offer a total of seven different models – never mind all the variants it is delivering to showrooms around the world. But the maker is far from done as it fleshes out its line-up, company officials say.

If anything, “Our management has said that in the future a full line-up of vehicles for the brand could be 10 models,” suggested David Duncan, Mini USA’s sales director, during a conversation in Puerto Rico, where the Paceman is getting its first media drive.

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Exactly what’s in store, Duncan and other Mini team members weren’t ready to discuss – beyond hinting they’re looking to fill “any segment that makes sense for a small car.”

In fact, small is apparently a relative term for the British maker, a subsidiary of Germany’s BMW.  Mini delivered a shock to many traditionalists when it introduced the Countryman, a couple years back, not only the first four-door model and the first with all-wheel-drive but also the brand’s biggest offering ever.


Closer Look: Mini Paceman

A 3-door “go kart”?

by on Sep.14, 2012

A first official look at the production Mini Paceman - which will formally debut in Paris this month.

We thought we’d have to wait for its official debut, scheduled for the end of the month at the Paris Motor Show, but Mini is weighing in with a new image and a lot more detail about the all-new Paceman model it has dubbed its first Sports Activity Coupe.

The Paceman is, as the name implies, a three-door spin-off of the Countryman, itself Mini’s first all-wheel-drive offering and its biggest model ever.  Long-rumored and initially denied, the British maker finally confirmed the production model during its “Mini Takes the States Tour” earlier this summer.

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The overall look won’t come as a surprise to those familiar with Mini and, in particular, the Countryman.  But it’s more than just a coupe version.  The doors are stretched, of course, but the helmet-like roof now has a downward slope that is reminiscent of the smaller Mini Coupe. Perhaps the most distinctive design feature is the use of horizontal taillights for the first time by the brand.


First Look: Fiat 500X

Maker set to add CUV as third model.

by on Jul.06, 2012

Fiat has offered a first look at what is expected to be the third model line in its growing U.S. line-up, a small crossover it is calling the 500X.

The unveiling came as a surprise to journalists who had been invited to Turin, Italy for the formal launch of the Fiat 500L, a 5-door hatchback that the maker plans to bring to the U.S. in 2013.  Fiat officials had previously hinted that another product was coming but refused to reveal details until lifting the covers in Turin on a silver concept vehicle.

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Tim Kuniskis, who took over as Fiat’s second U.S. brand boss last year, following a disastrously slow debut of the Italian brand, has told on several occasions that there would be more products coming – but he has also emphasized that Fiat will remain focused on small vehicles in the B-car segment.

Beyond that, Fiat officials had little to say about the 500X prototype they revealed in Turin.  But it is expected to be powered by several versions of the Italian makers MultiAir engine family – starting with a 0.9-liter turbocharged version for the European market that makes 104 hp, and a 84 hp 1.3-liter turbodiesel.  An American version of the crossover would likely share the turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir gas engine producing 101 hp, as well as the 160-hp version now offered in the Fiat 500 Abarth edition.

Reports from Europe suggest the 500X will measure about 13 feet, nose-to-tail, and that the new model will feature optional all-wheel-drive, much like the similarly sized Mini Countryman.

The 500X is expected to follow the 500L into production for Europe later this year, then follow the 4-door to the U.S. market in 2013.

It is expected to help Fiat not only expand its appeal but to specifically target the popular Mini brand.  That British marque has steadily expanded its own range of offerings and this week announced it will add a seventh product line, the Mini Paceman, next year.

(For more on the Paceman announcement, Click Here.)

Fiat currently offers a range of variants of the brand’s smallest model, the 500, including a standard coupe, a convertible and that higher-performance Abarth edition.

The Abarth has proved highly popular since making its American debut in mid-spring.  Fiat has had to advise dealers it will no longer take orders for the 2012 model.  It is planning to boost capacity for the 2013 model-year.

Abarth’s added momentum has helped Fiat’s U.S. dealers generate overall sales 20,706 units for the first half of 2012 – more than the brand sold in all of 2011.  The maker had originally forecast volume closer to 50,000 for that first year on the market, a number it now could hit this year.


Mini Confirms Paceman to Arrive in 2013

Seventh model in growing line-up.

by on Jul.05, 2012

The concept version of the Mini Paceman.

Just in time to mark the start of its annual “Mini Takes the States” tour, the British maker has confirmed it will put the Paceman concept into production next year.

That will bring to seven the total number of models in the Mini line-up, a significant expansion for a brand that debuted in the U.S. 10 years ago with just a single microcar.

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“You are the first to hear this, even before the press,” Mini chief executive Kay Segler as 1,000 fans turned out for the 6th annual, 3,900-mile cross-country rally. “The Mini Paceman is the official name of the brand’s seventh model, which will be launched next year in the U.S.”


Mini’s ‘Big’ Countryman Gets Torquey New Motor

JCW Countryman also gets tuner’s first AWD and automatic transmission.

by on Mar.02, 2012

The Countryman is the biggest model in Mini’s lineup and now it’s getting a new engine to match its extra girth.

Mini is introducing the John Cooper Works Countryman with a newly developed 211-horsepower version of the turbocharged 1.6-liter four cylinder Mini engine. The JCW Countryman will come standard with Mini’s ALL4 all-wheel-drive system, making it the first JCW Mini to put its power down through all four wheels.

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The other big news with the JCW Countryman introduction is the first John Cooper Works model in Mini’s lineup with an automatic transmission. Previous JCW models in Mini’s lineup have only been available with six-speed manual transmissions.

Mini expects the JCW Countryman to accelerate to 0-62 mph (0-100 km) in 7.1 seconds.


Smart Conceives World’s Smallest Pickup

Smart For-Us concept coming to Detroit Auto Show.

by on Dec.07, 2011

Smart will reveal the For-Us pickup at the Detroit Auto Show next month.

If Mini can come up with a crossover-utility vehicle why not a pickup truck for Smart?

That’s precisely what the Daimler division is planning to bring to the Detroit Auto Show next month.  This admittedly tongue-in-cheek concept, dubbed the Smart For-Us, “translates the practical loading concept of a pickup to the reality of 21st century urban traffic for the first time,” the maker says.

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Measuring just 11.6 feet, nose-to-tail, or not much longer than the extended bed on a conventional, heavy-duty pickup, the folks behind the Smart For-Us show car were intent on breaking all the rules, even opting for an electric driveline.

“We at Smart love pick-ups – if they are small on the outside, large on the inside, very safe and extremely comfortable,” proclaims CEO Annette Winkler. “With the Smart For-Us a petrol station is no longer required!”


First Drive: 2012 Mini Coupe

The small car brand gets bigger.

by on Jun.13, 2011 gets a first drive of the new Mini Coupe, which is set for a world debut at Frankfurt.

Many folks seem to recall the original Mini as a single, pint-sized offering though there was, in fact, an assortment of sizes and shapes marketed by the British brand over the years.

And so, from the rebirth of Mini in 2001, it was obvious that the brand would come up with more models than just the Hatchback – as the British marque, now under the command of Germany’s BMW, is rapidly proving. This year, Mini is adding the Coupe, the fifth model to the range, to a rapidly swelling line-up that already includes the Clubman, Convertible and Countryman. Next year, the Roadster will be number six.


We got our first sneak peek at the Coupe prototype at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. The strongly positive feedback convinced Mini to not just put the new 2-door into production but bring it to market in time for the next Frankfurt show – where it will make its official world debut this autumn.

But we were able to snag some seat time months before that formal introduction.


Mini Teams Up With Kiss

Microcar brands rocks out for charity – and offers customized Kiss-mobiles.

by on Apr.21, 2011

Mini and Kiss team up for charity.

It’s only rock n’ roll but, apparently, Mini likes it.  The BMW microcar brand invited the over-the-top rock band Kiss to share the stage at the 2011 New York Auto Show, announcing a series of Kiss-inspired Mini designs – and launching a charity program teaming with UNICEF to help children around the world – especially those affected by the March 11 disaster in Japan.

The maker had been hinting there’d be some big news at its booth, but few expects all four Kiss band members to show up in full make-up and regalia – as did the brand’s U.S. CEO Jim McDowell.

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The one thing missing from the executive’s tribute costume was the trademark Kiss platform shoes.  That made the diminutive McDowell craning his neck up at Kiss leader Gene Simmons.

“I feel a little short,” said Mini’s boss.  “Maybe that’s why I’m not in a rock band.  I work for a brand called Mini.”