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MX-5 rival and ‘Minor’ on Mini agenda

Sporting chance: While the R59 roadster will not make it to a new generation, Mini is planning to build a dedicated roadster based on the Superleggera Vision concept shown at last year’s Villa d’Este Concours d’Elegance in Italy.

Two-seater sportscar and premium entry city car in pipeline for pre-2020 debut

19 Nov 2015

MINI is set to expand its range by the end of this decade with a dedicated lightweight roadster and a premium city runabout.

The sportscar was previewed by the 2014 Superleggera Vision concept and the hatch will draw from the 2011 Rocketman show car, bolstering Mini’s core model range of 3-Door and 5-Door Hatch, Clubman, Cabriolet and Countryman SUV.

Both will fall within BMW’s revamped Mini framework that sees a subtle shift further upmarket for all models including next year’s second-generation Countryman, while slow-selling niche lines such as the R61 Paceman, R58 Coupe and R59 Roadster will be discontinued.

The march upmarket is believed to be in preparation for an entry-level ‘Mini Minor’ city car, which is understood to be in co-development with Toyota. For the latter, the urban hatch will replace the Smart ForTwo-style iQ.

The 2019 Mini Roadster, meanwhile, is speculated to adopt some of the Superleggera Vision’s retro racer form, though GoAuto understands it will adopt BMW’s new UKL front-drive platform – as seen on the new BMW X1, 2 Series Active Tourer and the latest Mini hatch and Clubman – to help keep costs down.

While Mini Australia general manager Kai Bruesewitz would not confirm the production Minor and Superleggera, he did flag their potential as future models.

“There are different ideas from Mini head office in Germany about what the line-up can be,” he told GoAuto at the F54 Clubman launch in Adelaide this week.

“We have the five core models … and there might be room for one more model in the future, but it has not yet been confirmed … be it like the Rocketman or ‘Mini Mini’, or whatever it is called.

“On the other hand, people have seen the concept Superleggera that was presented mid last year... but there has not been a decision made as far as I am aware.

Mr Bruesewitz acknowledged that an entry-level model would drive Mini’s growth significantly in Australia, but said it is not economically possible to do so with the existing, expensively engineered F56 Hatch.

The base Mini One, priced from $24,950, is as low as the brand can go for now, he said.

“We always wanted to grow sustainably, just not for the volume per se, as it must make sense for us as the manufacturer, but also for our dealer network,” he said.

“So we want to have a profitable dealer network, and of course also we, as the distributor and national sales company, also have to be profitable. That’s why we will always be in a slightly upper price bracket with Mini.

“If we were in a position to offer a car for $20,000, we probably could increase our share of the cake in Australia, but that’s not what we are here for, and it is not what we can achieve from a price perspective.”

Mr Bruesewitz, who began his tenure as general manager in January 2012 and returns to Germany at the end of this year in still-to-be-specified new role, believes the framework he has helped implement in Australia needs to be fully in place and established before the brand can expand profitably into the next phase.

“In the four years we’ve managed to lift the brand to a new direction and, more importantly, make it a success in Australia as it is globally, and in the first two years we had to set the framework to get some results in the market,” he said.

The Minor name dates back to a 1948 Morris small car developed by famous original 1959 Mini creator Alec Issigonis, and remained in production right up until the derided Marina replaced it in 1971. Over 1.365 million were made.

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