MINI Australia has cut pricing across the entire Countryman range by as much as $5200 in an attempt to shake up sales of its diminutive premium crossover.
The Countryman range now kicks off at $33,700 plus on-roads for the base front-drive 90kW petrol variant – a drop of $4000 over the previous entry price – making the Countryman scarcely more expensive than equivalent versions of the smaller three-door Mini Hatch.
Cooper and Cooper D variants – reduced by $4000 and $4100 respectively – are now just $2050 pricier than their Hatch equivalents, while a $5200 price cut on the sporty front-drive Cooper S has closed the gap to just $1600 between Countryman and Hatch models.
Petrol-powered Countryman Cooper S Chilli, Cooper S ALL4 all-wheel-drive and Cooper S ALL4 Chilli variants, as well as diesel-powered Cooper SD, Cooper SD ALL4 and Cooper SD All4 Chilli versions, have all received the maximum $5200 price reduction.
The Countryman is now also cheaper than an equivalent-spec Mini Clubman – the stretched Mini Hatch model that features an unorthodox ‘2+1’ side door layout and rear barn doors.
Mini Australia product communications manager Scott Croaker told GoAuto that the Countryman cuts were about “re-positioning it more in line with the market and its competitors, not that there are too many competitors for the Countryman”.
Mr Croaker said the cuts were partially a reaction to the refreshed Volkswagen Tiguan range – which received price cuts last October and the addition of a new front-drive entry-level variant from $28,490 – as well as the impending Audi Q3.
Asked about the narrowed gap between Hatch and Countryman pricing, Mr Croaker said Mini had considered possible sales cannibalisation, but saw the two models as being different enough for it not to be a major concern.
“With any models, especially within the Mini family, we need to consider migration,” he said.
“Obviously the Mini offers a high level of emotional appeal and, if we get fairly close with the level of specification between the models, there’s going to be that consideration – which one offers more in terms of versatility and functionality as well as the emotional appeal.
“But it’s not something that is very heavily considered, specifically with the Hatch and the Countryman, because the Hatch is really that iconic Mini, the heritage, whereas the Countryman is more of a step away from the history of the Mini.”
The Austrian-built Countryman has hovered between 20 and 50 sales per month since it started being classified as a stand-alone model in official VFACTS figures in July last year, seven months after its launch.
While local supply levels were briefly affected by the Japanese tsunami as it hurt several key parts suppliers, Mr Croaker said it was now restored and Mini could actively seek to increase Countryman sales in Australia.
Last month, Mini Australia launched the new Coupe and Roadster twins as performance flagships with a sales target of 450 units – two-thirds of which are projected to be Coupes.
As we recently reported, Mini will further bolster its Countryman line-up with the addition of a high-performance John Cooper Works version in the final quarter of 2012.
The 160kW/280Nm JCW version will be the first Mini to pair John Cooper performance tweaks with all-wheel-drive, as well as the first to offer a six-speed automatic transmission as an option.
Further down the line – probably from the second half of 2013 – Mini will launch the Paceman ‘sports activity coupe’, a performance-oriented three-door based on the Countryman’s architecture.