Parent firm BMW could partner with Great Wall to create brand’s next model range
18 September 2018

The future of the Mini brand is being radically rethought as its BMW parent makes major changes to its product plans.

Autocar understands that plans for a new fourth-generation Mini have been pushed back and any new model will not appear before 2023. Even the major makeover scheduled for today’s Mini range in late 2019 might be canned as part of BMW’s comprehensive planning overhaul.

One plan for the Oxford-based brand would see BMW and Chinese car maker Great Wall teaming up to engineer a new small front-wheel-drive platform, which would be used for an all-new range of Minis to be launched from 2023.

Sources also say the fourth-generation Mini range is likely to shrink, with an axe hanging over future versions of the cabriolet and the three-door hatchback.

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The dislocation of the Mini brand comes after BMW’s decision to shift production to just two platforms for all of its future models. These have been dubbed FAAR for front-wheel-drive cars and CLAR for rear-wheel-drive ones, as revealed by Autocar in December last year.

This strategic move, say insiders, has left Mini’s future up in the air because the FAAR architecture is too expensive and too big to underpin future Mini models.

As BMW platform strategist Lutz Meyer told Autocar, both the FAAR and CLAR platforms will be engineered to allow vehicles to be produced with internal combustion engines, as plug-in hybrids and as pure- electric models.

The electric motor on the hybrid versions of the new- generation vehicles will drive the axle not powered by the internal combustion engine. This engineering layout means that future BMW plug-in hybrids will be all-wheel drive.

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Such a complex ‘multi-fuel’ platform will be more expensive to engineer and produce than today’s rather simpler, front- wheel-drive UKL platform, which underpins the Mini family and BMW models such as the 2 Series Active Tourer and X1.

For BMW, the FAAR and CLAR architectures are essential because it is proving difficult to predict with accuracy future buying patterns and the extent to which drivers will swap to pure- electric vehicles.

As a global brand, BMW also has to cover individual market moves in different countries. For example, China is switching to electric cars at a much faster rate than Western markets.

Furthermore, the Mini brand’s fundamental problem is that it is a relatively small part of the BMW operation. In 2017, the BMW Group sold 2.46 million vehicles. Of that total, Mini accounted for 372,000 units globally — a sixth of the company’s output.

Crucially, however, the six-model Mini range shares technology with a number of BMWs (including the new X1 and X2 crossovers) and total production of the front-drive UKL platform is a very healthy 850,000-plus units annually.

Even so, when BMW begins the shift to the FAAR platform from 2021, production of the UKL platform will be phased out.

This is the hard industrial logic that lies behind BMW’s attempts to broker a deal with another car maker to engineer a new platform that is modern and safe but less complex and expensive to produce.

Industry rumours suggest that BMW held extensive talks with Toyota on a co-operative project, but that came to nothing. A deal with Great Wall looks more promising because BMW and the Chinese maker have already formed a 50/50 joint venture. Called Spotlight Automotive, it will produce an electric version of today’s Mini in China.

If the new BMW-Great Wall platform project goes ahead, the 2023 Mini family will be quite different. There’s unlikely to be a cabriolet and the three-door bodystyle could also be dropped. Expect a compact five-door hatch and new Clubman and Countryman models that will be less bulky and rather more lithe than today’s cars, which are hampered (especially in the case of the five-door hatch) by having to be built on a platform designed primarily for vehicles from a larger segment.

Three-cylinder engines with mild-hybrid assistance will be standard issue on the new models. A pure-electric version of the platform, spun into two models, is part of Great Wall’s plan to offer seven EVs in its range by 2025.

The Mk4 Mini will still be made in the UK, but localised production for the Chinese market seems highly likely. In 2017, only 35,000 Minis were sold in China. The cost benefits of local production could boost that significantly.

Why BMW is looking to China:

One significant reason for BMW pursuing a platform deal with a Chinese maker is that the engineering costs will be notably lower than for a platform engineered in Europe. It’s not widely appreciated that the cost of engineering a new platform has to be amortised across every car that is built on it.

High wage costs for Western engineers (alongside factory workers, designers and management staff) is a massive issue for cars like the Mini, which are priced from £16,000 in three-door form. In stark contrast, the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer costs from £24,000, making it far easier to cover the cost of the European-engineered multi-fuel FAAR platform.

Traditionally, Mini’s vast array of options packages has boosted profitability, but as standard equipment levels have increased, this effect has lessened.

Read more 

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2019 Mini Electric: first official pictures

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Comments
20

18 September 2018

...is just plain bonkers if you ask me!

The missus drives a 3-door Cooper and it would be such a shame if that model was canned.

 

18 September 2018
Rods wrote:

...is just plain bonkers if you ask me!

The missus drives a 3-door Cooper and it would be such a shame if that model was canned.

 

Unfortunately this is the way it's going. It's becoming so expensive to design/develop/engineer platforms/vehicles in Europe now that we are either going to have to pay a lot more for our cars or see models ranges drastically cut. Very few manufacturers can generate profit from any vehicle transaction below €16000.00 - 17000. It's the reason why a decent spec Fiesta will cost you 19-20k and it's the reason many (German) manufacturers offer such a myriad of options, profit on the vehicle may be just 1 or 2%, profits on options can be hundreds of %. We all (mostly) want smaller cars, manufacturers want us to have bigger cars, it costs Ford only around 3-5% more to manufacture a Mondeo than it does a Fiesta but the difference in list prices can be 10 times that.

18 September 2018

Couldn't agree more.  My partner also has a thre-door Cooper and it's a great drive.  It's also the only car in the MINI range that we would consider, the rest being increasingly ugly as the design language simply does not scale up successfully.

18 September 2018

If BMW don't have the engineering wherewithal to build a Mini platform at a rate of nearly 400,000 units per annum, there is little hope for them.  In the mid 1990s BMW produced c500,000 cars in total.  

18 September 2018

If BMW were to sell MINI there would be a queue of buyers for the brand. VW for example could make MINI profitable overnight by simply switching to a VAG platform. At 400,000 units a year they really should be profitable. 

18 September 2018
TStag wrote:

If BMW were to sell MINI there would be a queue of buyers for the brand. VW for example could make MINI profitable overnight by simply switching to a VAG platform. At 400,000 units a year they really should be profitable. 

VW couldn't make it worthwhile building the Beetle on a VW platform, they have their own small cars - UP!!!, citigroup and Miiii.

18 September 2018

Absolutely bonkers that they are considering dropping the 3 door, that is the definitive MINI hatch! I test drove one, it was like a little coupe, but unfortunately by the time we specced it up to match the Hyundai it was replacing, the list £10k suddenly looked closer to 20!

18 September 2018
WallMeerkat wrote:

Absolutely bonkers that they are considering dropping the 3 door, that is the definitive MINI hatch! I test drove one, it was like a little coupe, but unfortunately by the time we specced it up to match the Hyundai it was replacing, the list £10k suddenly looked closer to 20!

You're right.  We ordered our F56 MINI Cooper hatch in early 2014 before the car was even launched.  Despite my best efforts, we spent over £4k on extras that were essential to stop it looking like a poverty spec model.  For example, the standard 15" alloy wheels look ridiculously undersized, particularly given the black plastic wheel arch eyebrows, so we specified 17" items for an additional cost of over £1k.  Think about that for a moment: that's £1k for four replacement wheels that probably cost less than £100 more to make than the standard items.  How BMW is unable to make good profits form MINI is beyond me.

18 September 2018
Daniel Joseph wrote:

WallMeerkat wrote:

Absolutely bonkers that they are considering dropping the 3 door, that is the definitive MINI hatch! I test drove one, it was like a little coupe, but unfortunately by the time we specced it up to match the Hyundai it was replacing, the list £10k suddenly looked closer to 20!

You're right.  We ordered our F56 MINI Cooper hatch in early 2014 before the car was even launched.  Despite my best efforts, we spent over £4k on extras that were essential to stop it looking like a poverty spec model.  For example, the standard 15" alloy wheels look ridiculously undersized, particularly given the black plastic wheel arch eyebrows, so we specified 17" items for an additional cost of over £1k.  Think about that for a moment: that's £1k for four replacement wheels that probably cost less than £100 more to make than the standard items.  How BMW is unable to make good profits form MINI is beyond me.

For most cars a 3dr is unnecessary imo, but in a Mini it is essential. It is the core product which defines the brand and is by far the best looking of all the current Minis. I think my parents added nearly£4k of options to their F56 but one thing they would never change is the 15 inch wheels. So much more comfortable than larger wheels, plus they're quieter and way cheaper to replace. So what if they don't look as good when the car drives so well on them.

19 September 2018

Interesting observation about the wheel sizes and ride quality.  I've never driven an F56 with 15" wheels, so can't comment on how much more compliant the ride is when compared to ours, which is perfectly comfortable and copes very well with poor rural roads around us.  We did, however, deliberately specify regular rather than runflat tyres (with a space saver spare).  The more flexible sidewalls of the regular tyres would certainly compensate for the larger wheels to some degree.  I guess its all a matter of personal preference and, in any event, my car is a Boxster, so we're used to a firmer ride.  

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