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Mini Reveals New Hardtop Ahead of LA Debut

A little larger, a little lighter.

by on Nov.18, 2013

Coming at you...the newly redesigned Mini Hardtop.

Like baseball, it might help  to have a scorecard to keep up with Mini, the British carmaker rapidly expanding its line-up in recent years and hinting it could soon offer a whopping 10 to 12 different models in the not-too-distant future.

But in one sense, Mini is about to go back to basics, and the Los Angeles Auto Show will this week see the roll-out of an all-new update of the brand’s flagship product line, the Mini Hardtop. Based on a new platform developed in cooperation with German parent BMW, the next-generation Hardtop won’t deliver many visual surprises but will bring to market some new engines and advanced connectivity and other high-tech systems, Mini promises.

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While the new platform is a significant update, the approach to exterior design has been much more evolutionary which, Mini suggests, “signals the more mature character of the new model, reflected in a significant optimization of such aspects as space, safety, fittings, materials and finish quality as well as sportiness and ride comfort.”

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BMW Group Sets Sales Record for Third Quarter

Sales for first nine months also reach new highs.

by on Nov.06, 2013

The BMW Group reported record sales for the third quarter despite challenging times in Europe.

The BMW Group income increased 3.2% during the third quarter as its unit sales jumped more than 10% despite the challenging and volatile business conditions, prevailing across Europe.

“Reported figures for both the third quarter and the nine-month period have developed positively despite the higher level of expenditure on new technologies and a challenging market environment in Europe. We have recorded best-ever worldwide sales volume figures to date and remain within our targeted margin range for the Automotive segment,” said Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG.

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Based on its strong performance in the first nine months of the year, the BMW Group also reaffirmed its outlook for the current year, Reithofer said. (more…)

Mini Has Big Plans for New Small-Car Platform

British marque may soon offer as many as 10 different models.

by on Oct.14, 2013

The next Mini hatchback will debut in LA -- the Vision Concept shown here giving a hint of what's to come.

You can be small and still think big.  Just ask Mini, the British subsidiary of BMW that has, in barely a dozen years since its global re-launch gone from a small niche player with a minimal line-up of microcars to a fast-growing brand with a rapidly expanding product mix.

And the line-up will soon grow by as much as 50%, according to the BMW board member who oversees the Mini brand, it seems. The key is the upcoming launch of an all-new Mini hatchback based on a flexible front-drive platform developed in cooperation with the marque Bavarian parent.  In fact, this new “architecture” will soon give BMW a replacement for its 1-Series, the German maker’s first front-wheel-drive offering.

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The modern-day incarnation of Mini initially debuted with just the familiar hatchback model, but after generating enough sales to take even its most optimistic executives by surprise, a variety of alternatives began pouring into dealer showrooms, including the four-seat convertible, the Mini Open, a roadster, the five-door Countryman crossover and, all told, a total of seven different models now vying for space in the maker’s showrooms.

But get ready for Mini generation three, which will debut at the upcoming LA Auto Show. “With the new ULK architecture, we currently have in mind eight to 10 models,” BMW board member Peter Schwarzenbauer tells Automotive News Europe.

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Mini Vision Concept Offers Hint of Next Hatchback

Big changes in a little car.

by on Jul.26, 2013

The Mini Vision concept adopts a "futur-focused aesthetic," suggests the brand's chief designer.

Wondering what the next-generation Mini might look like? The British maker is offering a glimpse of what’s to come with the new Mini Vision concept.

The retro-futuristic prototype was unveiled by Anders Warming, head of Mini Design, at the Mini Design@Home event  in Munich. And it brings together a mix of forward-looking styling cues as well as details we’ve seen from such recent models as the Countryman’s canted roof and oversized taillamps, as well as new, more sculpted door panels.

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Some of the details, such as the familiar Mini hexagonal grille and inset bumpers have been captured in recent months by spy photographs of what is expected to be the replacement for the next-generation Mini hatchback due to reach market in 2014.

During his presentation, Warming described the Vision concept as a “future-focused aesthethic,” pointing to such updates of familiar details as the elliptical front headlights which, on the Vision concept migrate to LED lamps and adopt outer rings that remain constantly lit to serve as daytime running lamps.

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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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