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Criticism of Mini’s range expansion “understandable”

Stay the course: Mini revealed the Clubman concept this week in Geneva, previewing the next-generation model. A separate five-door hatch will be sold concurrently from 2015.

Mini boss understands criticism of range expansion, says seven models enough for now

6 Mar 2014


BMW Mini senior vice president Jochen Goller says criticism levelled at the company for its expansion into new market niches with cars such as the Paceman or Countryman is “understandable”.

But Mr Goller added that he would prefer the company to be seen as a “brand family” rather than the maker of one iconic three-door hatch, and said there would be a place for all seven Mini models -- hatch, Cabrio, Coupe, Roadster, Countryman, Paceman and Clubman -- and their derivatives so long as they brought something different to the table.

However, that doesn’t mean the company will rush head-long into launching model number eight, said Mr Goller. Instead, Mini’s plan of attack in the short-term is to expand existing model lines with new derivatives rather than adding all-new standalone products.

First cab off the rank will be the five-door version of the new Mini Hatch to be premiered at the Paris motor show this September. The timing of the reveal is not officially confirmed, but Mr Goller said a suggestion of such was “not completely unrealistic”: code for ‘yes’.

But should Mini decide to add an eighth model line down the track, it could well be a properly ‘mini’ Mini in the vein of the 2012 Rocketman concept, with Mr Goller saying that car, contrary to some reports, remains “on the table”.

Expect also future generations of cars such as the conceptually similar Paceman, Coupe and Countryman, or the similar Cabrio and Roadster models, to sport greater levels of differentiation, allowing Mini to expand its footprint organically.

“I think when you look at the current number of models, we have seven,” Mr Goller told GoAuto this week in Geneva, where the company was premiering the concept version of its 2015 six-door Clubman. “And I personally think the amount of models is the right one.” “So what we do now, however, is we differentiate the models more. The number 7 is the right amount, but we need a family where every member has a very distinct task.”

When asked if he understood the criticism from some corners of Mini’s move in recent years to grow its family of model lines in sometimes confusing ways -- largely into model niches, and via oddball offerings such as the ‘helmet-headed’ Coupe, Mr Goller said “absolutely we do”.

“And in a way it is understandable,” he added. “When we (BMW) took over in 2001, the Mini brand was (re-launched with) one model, so a lot of people still have in their mind that one hatch.

“And when you look around, that one model, the iconic Mini hatch, we haven’t really touched (it maintains evolutionary styling even in its latest guise), but we created a brand family.

“And whenever people mix up a bit between the model Mini and Mini brand, they basically criticise. But at the end of the day, people who understand the brand support us.

“For instance, when we launched the Countryman, which was the first four-door Mini, much bigger, there was a lot of criticism. I was in the UK then. But last year we sold 100,000 Countrymans.

“We have to make everybody understand that it is a brand family rather than a single model,” he said.

It is worth noting that, despite being best known for the classic hatch of the 2000s, as well as the Italian Job-era Cooper S of the 1960s, Mini under various ownership has offered various derivations for decades.

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