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BMW’s Brits to stay bespoke

Max-out: Crossover concept is the largest Mini ever, and the first five-door.

Expanding Rolls and Mini models won’t be rebadged BMWs, promises Brit board member

BMW logo13 Oct 2008

FEARS of the Mini becoming too big or a rebodied 7 Series standing in for a smaller Rolls Royce are unfounded, according to BMW’s new sales and marketing director, Ian Robertson.

The former chief executive of Rolls-Royce and now member of the board of management BMW Group for sales and marketing claims that the Bavarian brand’s overseers are aware of what makes the English marques appealing and unique.

He also pointed out that BMW has never undermined its acquisitions with design or engineering that falls short of brand expectations.

“BMW has proven that it understands brands,” Mr Robertson told GoAuto earlier this month at the Paris motor show, scene of the unveiling of the largest Mini-badged vehicle in history, the Crossover Concept.

“When we acquired Rolls-Royce and acquired Mini, a lot of people thought maybe we’ll make a small BMW or a large BMW to cater for those brands.

“One thing where we are very clear in our minds is that these are unique brands propositions. The Mini has almost 50 years of history, it is quintessentially a fun car... and therefore the platform that was developed was not a BMW platform but one unique to Mini,” he said.

“At the same plane, if you look at the other end of the spectrum with Rolls-Royce, it is simply the best-of-the-best, it is in the language and so-forth, and again, a unique platform has been developed for Rolls-Royce.”

Next year Rolls-Royce will introduce a smaller sedan to take on the highly successful Bentley Continental family – which, by the way, is closely related underneath to the Volkswagen Phaeton and Audi D3-series A8 luxury sedans.

Dubbed the RR4 – but that won’t be its name come production time – it should cost at least half the price of the circa million-dollar Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Furthermore, Mr Robertson dismissed concerns that the rapid model expansion of Rolls-Royce and Mini may erode their respective value in the eyes of consumers, stating that BMW is treading very careful and simply reacting to what shifting consumer needs and tastes.

 center imageLeft: BMW’s new sales and marketing director, Ian Robertson.

“(It’s true) the thing that we have been doing in the past few years has been expanding those ranges.

“With Mini we started off with the three-door hatch, and then we brought the Convertible and then we brought the Clubman, and then there is the crossover vehicle.

“With Rolls-Royce we have the Phantom, the long-wheelbase, the Drophead and now the Coupe, and we have already announced that we are working on a smaller car which will come in the next year.

“And they we will continue the brand philosophy that we have developed over the last few years.

“Yes, I am very proud to be part of the BMW group, I am very proud to look what we have achieved with our British brands, and I think we will continue to develop in the same way over the coming years.”

Mr Robertson rejected criticism suggesting that an all-wheel drive SUV-style Mini crossover is not only an anathema to the original (1959) Mini’s philosophy, but also to consumers wishing to downsize into a brand that by its very name represents that.

“No, I don’t think so. It is clear in our minds what the Mini brand is.

“BMW is very good at understanding new segments coming forward, such as the 1 Series, a rear-wheel drive premium hatch. It’s expanded its range into a coupe and a convertible and is doing very well. The same with the X6 – which is a ‘Sport Activity Vehicle’ that is sold-out the world over.”

He also pointed out that not only does a niche exist for people who want a Mini that is more versatile, but in the original Mini’s lifetime, the old British Motor Corporation went down the SUV path anyway.

“(Yes, the Crossover Concept is) the first four-door Mini ever – a step that hadn’t been taken previously.

“But having said that, there were a lot of Mini concepts 20, 30 or more years ago that pointed to this direction – the Mini Moke, for example.

“From that perspective the Crossover is a concept that will allow for more utilisation of our larger family in many respects.”

The Moke – which reportedly means ‘donkey’ – was a front-wheel drive Jeep-like open vehicle based on the original Mini. Launched in 1964, it was built in Britain until 1968, in Australia from 1966 to 1981 and in Portugal from 1980 to 1993.

Mr Robertson revealed that BMW has selected a name for the production version of the Crossover Concept – although it is unlikely to adopt ‘Moke’ as its moniker.

“It is not going to be called the name that is on the (concept) car,” he stated.

“And the name that it will be called is something that will be quite unique.”

Mr Robertson also admitted that the Mini crossover will not suffer the same pitfalls as the Clubman, which – for reasons concerning the placement of its fuel-tank filler – is sold in Australia and other right-hand drive countries with the sole rear-side door located on the driver’s – or road – side of the car.

“We intend this car to be a world car, such as it will have specifications to support that.”

Read more:

Mini 'Maxi' by name?

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