Could Mini have survived to a third-generation model without the involvement of BMW?
There are cold-eyed City analysts who will tell you that although Mini made a profit on every car it sold — often quite a healthy profit — it probably did not fully pay back the big industrial investment.
Indeed, until the launch of the Countryman, Mini was only selling just over 200,000 cars a year across five model lines. Could BMW have sensibly invested in a new platform, new tooling and a range of five models on sales of 200k? Probably not. The Countryman helped the case for Mini by adding 100,000 sales a year.
About four years ago, BMW decided to start building front-drive cars under its own badge. By building two ranges of front-wheel-drive (and all-wheel-drive) cars, BMW can dramatically improve the profitability of the Mini range.
So now it’s time for Mini to get serious. Design is under the control of Anders Warming, who will have overseen all of the new Mini designs that will come after the new three-door hatch. Mini plans to add at least three new body styles. The saloon will be primarily aimed at booming Asian cities. Mini will also get a proper baby MPV, and in turn the Countryman will become more of a true compact SUV and less of an oddly proportioned supermini.
Perhaps the model that will do most to drive Mini sales up will be the new five-door hatchback. It is not much longer than the three-door, but BMW has squeezed in a pair of conventionally hinged rear doors primarily designed to accommodate children. Three-door superminis are slowly being dropped because of tiny sales, so it shows the potential for a five-door Mini.
Later this month Mini will reveal its new marketing line ‘Not Normal’ on a series of three posters. This campaign is understood to push the idea that Mini owners are strongly individual and creative.