BMW is "realigning the product and brand strategy" of Mini, according to Peter Schwarzenbauer, the BMW board member responsible for the Mini brand. The announcement was made at the unveiling of the new Mini Clubman in Berlin.
The first move is the launch of the new Clubman, which Schwarzenbauer says is targeted at "the premium compact class".
The new model – which is a significant 293mm longer and 115mm wider than its unconventional predecessor – has an entry-price of £19,995 and is intended to compete with the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class hatchback, as well as more premium versions of the Volkswagen Golf.
BMW says the new Clubman should open up a whole new market for the brand because the car offers "long-distance suitability, versatility and comfort". Schwarzenbauer also said Mini would "open ourselves up to new ideas and new business areas. We will develop the brand’s visual identity".
The upshot is that BMW is expected to send the Mini brand image upmarket, launching a new visual identity for the brand, its dealers and the brand marketing. The ‘cheeky’ image that has been used since Mini was relaunched in 2001 is expected to be reinvigorated, with insiders suggesting they feel the brand has lost its unique identity as it has been copied so extensively by rivals.
Schwarzenbauer said the new Clubman is "entering the premium compact market segment….which promises the strongest growth in the future.
"Market studies forecast annual growth of 4% for the premium compact segment, which will account for more than 27% of the total global premium passenger market by 2020."
BMW is also expecting to increase the profitability of the Mini brand in the future through a greater uptake of options and high-spec models. The company expects Cooper S models to account for "up to a third of sales in the medium term". It also expects the performance John Cooper Works line to double its share of Mini sales to 5%.
"Since its creation in 1959, the Mini brand has always stood for ideas, inspiration and passion," Schwarzenbauer added. "That will not change. The new Mini Clubman is the symbol of refined brand philosophy. We will concentrate in future on five core models with strong characters."
There is still no news on whether the Mini Superleggera roadster concept will make production, although it could be a sister model to the upcoming BMW Z4 replacement, which is itself is partnered with a new Toyota model.
Mini could also produce a larger, more mainstream crossover as a big brother to the Countryman.