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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.

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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.

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Mini Me? British Maker Downsizes for the Olympics

Four-wheels and one javelin.

by on Aug.09, 2012

"I'll call him 'Mini-Me.'"

They are some of the oldest sports in the Olympics, dating back to the days of the ancient Greeks, but even events like the javelin, discus and hammer throws are getting a modern update with the help of British automaker Mini.

Call it Mini Me, perhaps, but the BMW subsidiary has come up with an even more downsized version of its familiar microcars that save valuable time during competition by bringing javelins, hammers and shots back from the field to the throwing area.

There are, in fact, three Mini Minis, each a quarter the size of a real car.  They’re battery-powered and remote controlled.  They’re being put to the test during nine days of Olympic competition that will be followed by another nine days in the Paralympics.

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“The MINI team was thrilled to be given this challenge to develop a vehicle with such an important and high profile role during the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” commented Dr Juergen Hedrich, Managing Director of MINI Plant Oxford. “I know that everybody was inspired by the challenge and the knowledge that these models will be seen in action by millions of people around the world.”

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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 TheDetroitBureau.com 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 Unveils “Fastest” Model Ever

New GP takes John Cooper Works to new level

by on May.14, 2012

Is this the fastest Mini ever?

Several thousand folks who turned out for the Mini United Festival in Le Castellet, France over the weekend got a pleasant surprise: the first look at what the British maker is billing as “the fastest Mini ever.”

Dubbed the Mini John Cooper Works GP, it offers some extensive upgrades to the already impressive Mini JCW and data from testing on the legendary German Nurburgring suggest it will deliver some blazingly fast performance.

While Mini is yet withholding some specific data, a report out of Britain hints the John Cooper Works GP will make 214 horses compared to the current JCW’s 208.    That apparently brings the 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine to a specific output, in European terms, of 100 kW per liter pretty darned close to the vaunted likes of Nissan’s GT-R.

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What we do know for sure is that the concept revealed at the Mini United Festival features a front fascia designed to suck in substantially more air, with some nice new aero-enhancing details, such as side skirts and a rear diffuser, along with a carbon-fiber wing mounted above the backlight.  There are distinctive new wheels and aggressive red accents around the front air scoops, as well as new, lipstick-red sideview mirrors.

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Lexus, Mini Top Brands for Customer Satisfaction with Dealer Service

Study finds dealers ranked above independent service shops.

by on Mar.14, 2012

Lexus topped the J.D. Power Customer Service chart for a fourth consecutive year.

For the fourth year in a row, Lexus has topped the charts as the brand delivering the highest level of customer satisfaction when it comes to dealer service.  Among mainstream brands, Mini led the list for the second consecutive year, according to a new study by J.D. Power and Associates.

The annual Customer Service Index, or CSI, found that overall satisfaction with dealer service has improved substantially over the last year, perhaps reflecting efforts by automakers to build brand loyalty.  Significantly, survey respondents revealed they are generally more pleased with the service they get at the dealer than with work done by independent repair shops.

“Steady improvements in vehicle quality, longer intervals between recommended service visits and a higher mix of maintenance service events have had a positive effect on overall dealer service satisfaction,” said Chris Sutton, senior director at J.D. Power and Associates.

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“Moreover,” Sutton added, “manufacturers and their dealers have instituted broad-based customer service improvement initiatives to increase satisfaction with both the purchase experience and after-sales service, with the understanding that a substandard service occasion can and will impact their ability to make a future vehicle sale or gain repeat service business.”

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First Look: Mini Clubvan Concept

It’s a Mini van, but not a minivan.

by on Feb.20, 2012

Mini's Clubvan concept echoes the design of the original 1960 Morris Mini Van.

The newest offering from Mini might properly be described as a van, but it is decidedly not a minivan.

The British maker is offering a sneak peek at the Mini Clubvan, a concept due to debut at next month’s Geneva Motor Show based on the British marque’s current Clubman model.

The show car is based on a body style that has become extremely popular in Europe, here featuring two seats up front separated by a steel honeycomb partition from a reasonably roomy cargo compartment.  The Ford Transit Connect is one of the first versions of this approach to reach U.S. shores.

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The Clubvan, declares the maker, has the potential to significantly expand the brand’s appeal by resolving one of its biggest drawbacks, “with increased load-carrying capability.”

“The Mini experience,” it continues, “will therefore find its way into new areas of life, the brand’s distinctive character gaining new popularity among target groups not previously on the Mini radar.”

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Toyota Leads as Vehicle Dependability, Overall, Rises Sharply

But perceptions still lag reality for many brands.

by on Feb.15, 2012

2010 Lexus LS 600h L

The 2009 Lexus LS was ranked tops by the latest JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study.

Toyota and its Lexus luxury brand dominate the latest Vehicle Dependability Study, according to J.D. Power and Associates, though the annual VDS study shows that today’s cars, on the whole, are proving more reliable than ever.

But the Power report also reveals that perceptions continue to lag reality for some brands that have made major gains in recent years.

Of the 32 brands covered by the 2012 Vehicle Dependability Study, 25 showed improvements year-over-year, with five declining and one holding steady.  What’s particularly significant is that the latest survey focuses on vehicles built during the depths of the automotive industry’s worst downturn in decades, said Power Vice President David Sargent.

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“Despite facing immense challenges in 2009, automakers placed a keen focus on delivering outstanding levels of quality, which they understood would be essential to their long-term success,” noted Sargent, adding that, “Three years later, owners of these models are enjoying unprecedented levels of vehicle dependability.”

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Mini Roadster Takes Aim at Mazda Miata

Pure 2-seat fun.

by on Jan.09, 2012

Mini adds its sixth model with the 2-seat Roadster.

It may soon be difficult to tell all the new players in the affordable roadster segment without a sports car, what with new offerings like the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S ready to take on the venerable Mazda Miata.  Now, add in the Mini Roadster, making its U.S. debut at this week’s Detroit Auto Show.

The first open-top 2-seater in the British brand’s line-up, it offers a counterpoint to the 4-seat convertible that’s been a Mini staple since 2009.  But, say company officials, it offers a “spontaneous, unadulterated recipe for urban driving fun.”

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Add in simple and basic, like the original Miata, the new Mini Roadster holds down weight, complexity – and cost – with a purely mechanical canvas top; no fancy motor drive, you simply reach back and pull it up if the clouds start to threaten.

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Lexus Tops JD Power Sales Satisfaction List

Consumers, generally happier with buying process.

by on Dec.02, 2011

Lexus topped the list in the latest J.D. Power Sales Satisfaction Index.

It’s often compared to a trip to the dentist – but a new study says American motorists are far more comfortable than you used to be with the car buying process.

In fact, satisfaction with the new-vehicle sales process has improved notably from 2010, according to the latest of J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index, or SSI, with Lexus topping the chart among luxury brands, while Mini ranked highest among mass market brands for a second consecutive year.

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While Lexus and some of the other high-scoring brands also lead the way in terms of quality and reliability that’s not always the case, Mini coming in well below industry average in the latest J.D. Power Initial Quality survey.

Significantly, as manufacturers have come to recognize the increasingly competitive nature of the new car market Power data show that they’ve been putting a higher emphasis on satisfying the customer as soon as they walk into the showroom door.  And surprisingly, in some cases, that means taking more time with customers rather than rushing them in and out of the showroom.

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