Currently reading: Mini’s future under scrutiny
Parent firm BMW could partner with Great Wall to create brand’s next model range
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4 mins read
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.

2019 Mini Electric: first official pictures

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.

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.

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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.

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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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jonboy4969 15 November 2018

What a load of drivel, the

What a load of drivel, the MINI Brand is very profitable, it is just BMW trying to squeeze every last penny out of it, and why would they get rid of the best seller 3 Dr hatch, they wont, it is just more tripe the facelift IS goign ahead as planned, and the convertible is also going nowhere, what they need is a small entry level car that brings it back under £10k by the time owners have specced it up (where the vast majority of profits are) it would be yet another huge ncome stream. 

But then BMW have never been known to stick to their promises, just look at Rover, only a few weeks before they were launching plans for a new factory, new models and improved profitability, but the pathetic Quandt family were not prepared to wait just one more year when it would all have been done and dusted and the money would have been flowing in.

5wheels 11 October 2018

Dont matter much

BMW have just agreed take up another 25% of China Brilliance (love these querky name in China like BYD etc) and all minis in the future will be built from 2022 in China BREXIT has nothing to do with it but wave bye bye to the mini being constinued there and say Hello to cheap nasty Chineseplastic metal crap replacing it. Volvo are already finding the cost of their own dillying with the Chinese products (and losing 20% of its core life time owners)

jonboy4969 15 November 2018

5wheels wrote:

5wheels wrote:

BMW have just agreed take up another 25% of China Brilliance (love these querky name in China like BYD etc) and all minis in the future will be built from 2022 in China BREXIT has nothing to do with it but wave bye bye to the mini being constinued there and say Hello to cheap nasty Chineseplastic metal crap replacing it. Volvo are already finding the cost of their own dillying with the Chinese products (and losing 20% of its core life time owners)

 

Yet more rubbish, Volvo's sales have sky rocketted, so those that dont keep the cars as long as others would be previlant, those that would keep the cars long term are still there, the quality and reliability of teh new products out weigh the old cars hugely, and they were good, and it would be interetsting to know where you get your figures from, MINE come direct from Volvo and via the EUro car sales per country, governemnt sites.

catnip 18 September 2018

Isnt the brand MINI? I would

Isnt the brand MINI? I would have thought an experienced motoring journalist would be aware of things like that.