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Mini EV will not rival BMW i3 in Australia

Charged up: While the Mini Countryman PHEV (left) is being evaluated for Australia, the forthcoming EV Hatch is also a chance for a local launch.

Countryman PHEV and three-door EV likely local starters for Mini

Mini logo18 Aug 2017

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

MINI Australia will aim to introduce both the Countryman plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and the recently announced three-door hatch electric vehicle (EV) Down Under, with the latter likely to sit well below the BMW i3.

Speaking about the local prospects of the PHEV and (yet-to-be unveiled) EV models with GoAuto at the national media launch of the Mini Countryman JCW this week, Mini Australia general manager Tony Sesto said that there was a space for both battery-powered models in the local line-up.

“The PHEV is offered in the Countryman, and the electric will be offered in the hatch, so they’re two different variants that we would be focusing on,” he said.

“The PHEV, which we have two evaluation units arriving in November, we’ll start our process to go through the full business case with that.

“(And) obviously the latest news … with the electric hatch that Mini will also be introducing.”

Last week Mini Australia announced that it would commence a roadshow with the duo of Countryman PHEVs to gauge interest from businesses and dealers about a potential launch for the petrol-electric all-wheel-drive model.

Mini Australia product planning manager Daniel Silverwood said that while the PHEV – which uses a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine and rear axle-mounted electric motor to deliver 165kW/385Nm – could become a limited-edition model Down Under, the preference was to give buyers several options.

“We’re confident that we can make it (Countryman PHEV) work, and it (the roadshow) is also a great way to generate and garner some interest for the possibility of a fully electric Mini as well,” he explained.

“It would be ideal to give the Mini customer all the personalisation that they love and not have to hold any of that back (with a limited edition). That is going to be part of our review process. But at the same time we have to find the right structure to make that work, so it’s still a work in progress that one.

“We’re fortunate that the BMW Group is fully committed to the reduction of emissions, and also the electrification program, so it’s great to see Mini’s first step locally towards that direction in the market.”

Mr Silverwood declined to reveal a local timeline or potential pricing for the Mini EV, which is expected to be unveiled at next month’s Frankfurt motor show, however Mini Australia corporate communications general manager Lenore Fletcher said that either way a Mini EV would not cross paths with BMW’s i3 EV.

“I think they (Mini EV and i3) are really different customers and if you look at i3 you’ll see that it is a very different vehicle, whereas the hatch is a very traditional type of Mini,” Ms Fletcher said.

“It will appeal to a different customer (to i3) because your Mini customer is very different to a BMW customer as well, there’s a lot more personalisation, there’s a lot more individuality in a Mini buyer.

“The i3 is all about showcasing what’s possible, considering the componentry and the materials used within it. I think the focus of possibly the Mini EV Hatch will be that it will be normalising and bringing that as a separate drivetrain, it’s a different drivetrain, and it’s part of that ongoing introduction (of EV) as part of the range. The way diesel became part of the range, electrification will as well.”

Asked whether a Mini EV would be priced below an i3 EV, which kicks off from $63,900 plus on-road costs, Ms Fletcher replied: “In terms of pricing and spec we just don’t have that information yet.

“We’re just bringing out the PHEV for evaluation and then we’ll take it from there. In terms of getting ahead of that range anxiety, ahead of all those barriers to purchase, I think the plug-in hybrid is a really good and useful way of getting the customers in touch with that technology.

“But given the Group’s commitment and investment in the technology, you can pretty much say it (the Mini EV) is a no-brainer for us.”

However, Ms Fletcher also said that given BMW’s experience with battery-powered vehicles and its implementation within dealerships, the introduction of a Mini EV would not be a startling prospect for Australian BMW/Mini outlets.

“Because we’ve got a lot of joint dealerships and the technology is known within the range, the response from the dealers on the PHEV from BMW right across the range has been strong,” Ms Fletcher continued.

“It (PHEV and EV models) is rolling out in a natural formation now, it’s accepted, it’s known, we’re not in that situation of having to set-up special areas for training et cetera, because we’ve done all that.”

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