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Mini to capitalise on BMW electric tech

Powered up: The Mini E was the British brands only attempt at an electric vehicle but was only available as part of a trial.

Electric Mini likely a goer, but buck could stop with Australian government

Mini logo28 Sep 2016

By DANIEL DeGASPERI

MINI could soon tap into the resources of the its parent company BMW’s electric-focused ‘i’ division and produce an electrified model, but a lack of incentives and subsidies could harm its chances in Australia, according to the brand’s local chief.

Speaking with GoAuto at the national media launch of the JCW Convertible in northern Queensland last week, Mini Australia general manager Tony Sesto said he believes the British brand has the virtues of small size and light weight that were ideal for efficiency-focused electric vehicles.

“The huge opportunity we’ve got is that we’re part of the BMW Group and if you look at the progress and all the exciting things that are happening with the BMW Group, that is engineering and intelligence and smarts that can obviously filter down,” Mr Sesto said.

“Being a smaller, lighter vehicle, if anything that puts us in an even stronger position to do things like electrification and efficiency and emissions saving and things like that.

“If you look at the Mini Next that was released in terms of celebrating 100 years along with BMW, that gives you a really good insight into where the brand can go in the future.”

The Mini Vision Next 100 Concept revealed earlier this year did not mention a drivetrain – aside from it being zero emissions – but autonomous driving was listed as a crucial part of a design that, according to the brand, allowed owners to have fun driving a Mini or allow it to drive them.

While BMW has forged ahead with several electric and hybrid vehicles in recent years, both inside its i Division with the i3 and i8, and its passenger car range with the 3 Series, X5 and 7 Series plug-in versions, Mini has been free of electric action since the Mini E trial in limited numbers in 2009.

Mr Sesto added: “If Mini does take that (electric vehicle) path in the future, it’s not something that we would pass on. BMW is having success in the Australian market, so if we would follow that, it’s not something that we would pass on.”

However, he also followed BMW executives’ criticism of Australia’s approach to the sale of electric vehicles and reducing national fleet emissions that currently stands as one of the highest among first-world nations.

“I think in this market unfortunately the government is not … proactive enough to encourage the sales of things like electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids,” he said.

“I think one of the things that needs to be fixed before we talk about ‘is there a need?’ is the government needs to take a lot more proactive stance in terms of subsidies and making it a lot more desirable for the consumer to get into these vehicles.

“In other markets that do have these incentives and subsidies (for electric vehicles) there is a desire.”

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