• Jan 16, 2011
Mini showed off the Paceman Concept at this year's Detroit Auto Show and announced not long afterward that it would spawn a production model. Tom Salkowski, who recently moved from BMW USA to Mini USA to fill the role of marketing manager, will be the man charged with getting the word about about Mini's eighth model and the ones beyond. Here's what he had to tell us.
  • The small car segment has erupted over the past couple of years and "Mini has prospered" even though it "faced significantly more competition." But when asked what kind of head-to-head competitors the brand thinks it faces, Salkowski said "maybe Volkswagen, Mazda, Scion in the small-car segment," with the caveat that since "Mini is very much a mindset, it's different than other vehicles," so "for the time being we don't see anything." Head of product management Oliver Friedmann confirmed the assessment with, "We don't see any one-to-one competition, maybe the Evoque could be" for the Countryman.
  • Salkowski offered his thoughts on the Fiat 500 with, "The 500 is a darling little car, but Mini is a premium brand."
  • On the discussion of roots and heritage at other emotional brands like BMW and Lotus, when asked how big the Mini brand and Mini cars could get and still be considered Minis, Friedmann said, "That's what we try to find out at the moment. We just jumped over the four-meter line with the Countryman," but reaction in the three months that the crossover has been on sale in Europe has been "very positive."
  • Nevertheless, it's not about creating an acceptance of a Mini of any size. Friedman said, "The competitors for the Countryman are significantly larger. We will always stay the smallest in the segment." But the number one rejection of Mini is due to size and space, so the company had to do something.
  • Mini's been known for its irreverent advertising, and it doesn't sound like much will change under Salkowski, with a "bigger spend on television – you only get one chance to launch a car." There will also be a huge billboard in Times Square, and a take-off on Mini's original U.S. launch when they had a roving Ford Excursion driving around with a Mini on its roof. This time it will be a roving Countryman with a vintage Mini, Alec Issigonis' original, on its roof.

Live photos copyright ©2011 Jeremy Korzeniewski / AOL

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      Rename it the MAXI.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ahh yes, premium brand. My yuppie sense is tingling.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Chronically in the bottom of the J. D. Powers Quality surveys, the MINI is not the "premum" it's cracked up to be. And for Salkowski's remark, may I remind him of a comment Neil Armstrong once made: "When you get over-confident, that's when something snaps up and bites you".
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ coupefan

        Your review mentions in the "what we don't like" section: "It's not as sharp to drive as a Mini"

        I just thought that was kinda funny.

        They do say this about reliablity:"Unexpectedly excellent, given Fiat's track record. "

        Look, I've never been in a 500, or driven one, so I only know what I read about Fiat's, and well, they seem to be mostly junk. I wouldn't buy a Fiat, but since my run in with Volkswagen I take reliably surveys more seriously now.

        I will say the pictures of the interior on the 500 make it look nicer than the Mini.
        • 3 Years Ago
        A 'satisfaction' survey, whatever that means. NOT a reliability survey. And did anyone bother reader the responses in that? But try this one;

        • 3 Years Ago
        I had my MINI Cooper for 6 years, and it was a positive experience. I had precious few issues (save one part that had to be replaced twice). I can hardly complain. It was a blast to drive and fun the whole 6 years. I was very torn and sorry to recently trade it in.

        I have nothing bad to say about them whatsoever. Most everyone I know who has or had a MINI loved it the whole time too and they were NOT often in the shop, but what do we know ;-)?
        • 3 Years Ago
        Thanks for that Indi customer satisfaction survey neevers1.
        Lets see how fiat does with this plant in Mexico making the revised 500 for the
        N American market.
        With so much at stake coming back to the US, I am sure they are in overtime mode dialing in the quality control.
        Heck, they are already 2 months late launching it here, I am sure it is because they are making sure they are popping out super tight units.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Yes, the Fiat will be very dependable, as they are today in Europe.
        Also, they will have a huge warranty to back that up.
        The image of undependable Fiats is mostly with my generation, people that are 40+.
        I can't wait to buy an Abarth......
      • 3 Years Ago
      How many Mini variants are there? I've lost count.

      Anyway, the premium brand thing certainly works for Apple. Work it, Mini.
        • 3 Years Ago
        The model diversity being engendered into the Mini lineup is simply staggering.

        Hardtop, Convertible, Clubman, Countryman for sale now and they're talking about Coupe, Roadster and Paceman for production and possibly the Beachcomber and even a minivan variant -- what'll that be, the Caravan? Not a name they can use in the US.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm a bit turned off by both cars, so I'm not sure why I'm even commenting.
      • 3 Years Ago
      A premium brand with hard plastic interiors?
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Mini was about as unknown in the USA when first launched as the Fiat 500 is today. Fiat's 500 has the same chance at being "premium" as Mini did. Both cars were cheap economy cars that were sold for decades in Europe.
        • 3 Years Ago
        They call it the 500 cause the Fiat actually weighs 500 pounds less than the Mini Cooper. In addition to that, it gets much better fuel economy. The inside of the Fiat enjoys nice soft touch materials that the Mini just can't touch. To Mini, those are fighting words, but i'm confident that when the new 500 hits the new 500 hits these shores it was have as much cachet and instant recognition as the Mini did when it arrived here. And, the Abarth SS pwns the Cooper S in every way.
        • 3 Years Ago
        But the 500 isn't being marketed as a premium compact. Neither in Europe or the US. While the most inexpensive Mini rings in at just over $20k, the 500 will be introduced in the states below $16k. No doubt there will be higher end models and options galore to raise that dollar figure, but the 500 will likely never enjoy the same premium cache as the Mini.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I like the Mini and the Fiat 500 especially the Abarth edition. The Mini is a formidable car and the Fiat as well. The Mini maybe priced higher but you get good engineering and a chance to have BMW engineering within a small FWD vehicle. The Fiat 500 can be considered premium but at a lower price point. It has Italian engineering, a classy design, and overall priced lower. I think that it depends on the people that buy these vehicles. I personally like the Mini but it is priced too high but I see why people buy it. As for the 500 I like it as well, it is priced cheaper, and with the Abarth being built, it is a good alternative, from my eyes, to the Cooper S. I want to see the first tests on these two vehicles on American shores to see which one has the advantages and disadvantages.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Who can honestly call the Mini interior premium........it's like a cartoon, kind of insulting really. Every time I sit in one I feel like I am on a ride at Toon Town
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Fiat 500 is being made by Chrysler for US production. The MINI is made by BMW.

      So ya. Would anyone really consider Chrysler 'premium'? Of course, this is arguable, and people have different opinions on what 'premium' means.
        • 3 Years Ago
        no, he clearly has not, nor has he sat in a 500. had he done so, he wouldn't be asking such questions
        • 3 Years Ago
        I've been in both, on the same day, yesterday, in Detroit.
        • 3 Years Ago
        have you sit in the Mini? is feels very cheap and plastic looks kinda fragile
        • 3 Years Ago
        I sat in a low-spec Fiat 500 in Montreal this past fall. They had one on display on the street, promoting the brand awareness. It was Yaris-poor inside! A penalty box!

        I've also seen 100's of 500's in Paris, in all specs/trims. It CAN be a sweet, sweet car, no doubt, when it's fully-loaded, but it can also be a stripped-down basic transportation sort of a car [and VERY cheap looking/seeming inside].

        I don't see any MINI owner (and I was one for 6 years) being envious of the 500 for any reason I can fathom. It's simply not superior in any way, shape or form, and delivers a more punishing ride by all accounts I've read.
      • 3 Years Ago
      'Premium' seems to mean not only good engineering but also very slick marketing which convinces the public that they are buying something better. However you define better.

      There is another market (me) which enjoys simplicity and the achievement of a lower cost - which is an achievement in itself for any manufacturer - whilst at the same time delivering an excellent product

      The truth is, many of these terms exist only to seduce the buyer, and infatuation is a dangerous state to be in, whatever the circumstance. Car buying is one of the circumstances ;).
      • 3 Years Ago
      OK, normally I don't do this sort of thing, but....

      "Pride goeth before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall." ;-)

      I know it is a PITA for marketeers, but sometimes customers make up their own ideas about value and brand position. The 500 could be a surprise.
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