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.
“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.”
Under the executive’s new plan, Mini will pare back to three- and five-door versions of its familiar hatchback, Countryman and Clubman models. An electric model is also expected to be added to the mix.
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Schwarzenbauer first hinted at the changes underway during interviews at the Los Angeles Auto Show, admitting that Mini simply had too many models tripping over each other.
Oddly, Mini unveiled several models in Los Angeles, including the five-door hardtop and a convertible roadster, the Superleggera Vision Concept.
Nonetheless, this appears to spell the end of development efforts for the Rocketman, an even smaller Mini model reportedly under development. And those L.A. concepts now seem unlikely to make it into production – unless the Superleggera becomes the electrified model Schwarzenbauer has approved. It might replace the current Mini E battery hardtop.
Other current models set to vanish apparently include the Paceman, Roadster and Coupe.
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Mini would slice back its line-up even as its sales continue to grow. The maker sold 305,000 vehicles in 2013, and could reach another all-time high for this year, Schwarzenbauer is forecasting. That’s despite a slowdown earlier in the year due to the launch of the third-generation hardtop. But global sales have rebounded, climbing 13.4% in October, while the hardtop itself saw a nearly 54% jump for the month.
The rare exception to that upward trend is the U.S., where sales tumbled 19.6% for the first ten months of this year, to 44,488. Volume was off 7% for October. The maker will release U.S. numbers for November tomorrow.
During his Munich speech, Schwarzenbauer suggested the decision to focus on core models is a “work in progress, but we are continually questioning Mini’s future. We will adjust the brand quite a lot over several years. The heritage will still be important, but we also have to be shaped by the zeitgeist.”
The zeitgeist suggests that smaller vehicles are becoming increasingly popular worldwide. At the same time, so are more powerful products. And that’s reflected in Mini’s order bank. The Cooper S models now account for 34% of the brand’s sales, up from 25% a decade back. The top-line JCW models, meanwhile, are generating 5% of total demand.
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