Mini pegs its future on crossovers, electric cars, and the Chinese market

It aims to realign its model range

2021 Mini Cooper Countryman
2021 Mini Cooper Countryman / Image Credit: Mini
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Mini shed light on how its range of models will grow during the 2020s. It confirmed the longstanding rumors claiming it will expand its presence in the crossover segment, and it announced plans to launch more electric cars, including some that will be built in China through a joint-venture established with Great Wall Motors.

Executives at the BMW-owned firm have approved what they describe as a realignment of the line-up that's primarily built on three pillars: electric technology, crossovers, and China. "Harnessing new target groups and sales markets will be crucially important for the future of Mini," stressed company boss Bernd Körber.

As of writing, Mini's only entry into the crossover segment is the Countryman (pictured), which is well into its second generation, and its only electric car is a variant of the two-door Hardtop. It confirmed two more crossovers are in the pipeline. One is described as a being positioned in the small-car segment, and the other is billed as a compact model. The former will exclusively be available with an electric powertrain, while the latter will be offered with internal combustion engines, though some degree of electrification will almost certainly be available.

Mini stopped short of providing concrete details about its future high-riders, and we don't know precisely when they'll be unveiled, but an earlier report sketches the outline of a battery-powered crossover that resurrects the Paceman nameplate and that's about as big as the BMW X1. Possibly called Traveler, or Traveller if product planners select the British spelling, the second model will reportedly ride on BMW's CLAR platform, meaning it will be the first Mini equipped with a longitudinally-mounted engine, and the brand's first rear-wheel drive car.

Like its parent company, Mini realistically aims to give customers what it calls the power of choice. While electrification will spread across its line-up, it's not planning on phasing out gasoline- or diesel-burning engines in the near future. It pointed out internal combustion technology remains an ideal solution in some markets.

Whether current members of the Mini range will be canned during the realignment is a point executives steered clear of. They confirmed the Countryman will sooner or later return for a third generation, but unverified rumors claim the open-top variant of the Hardtop will retire without a successor in February 2024. It competes in a shrinking segment of the market, and it's consequently one of the slowest-selling members of the portfolio.

What's certain — at least according to Mini — is that going big won't dilute its brand image.

"It is part of our responsibility to the brand and the community to preserve the unique character of Mini, and to develop the portfolio according to our brand values. That's why every new model from our brand in the future will be unmistakably a Mini," Körber stated. In recent years, Mini has clarified that its models are now primarily characterized by the maximum use of interior space, engaging handling, and being the smallest in their respective category. Crucially, this is another way to announce that a Mini does not necessarily need to be mini, a message already sent when the first BMW-developed Cooper Hardtop made its debut in 2000, and driven home when the tiny Rocketman concept introduced at the 2011 edition of the Geneva Motor Show was canceled.

Finally, the alliance with Great Wall Motors will give Mini the opportunity to sell more cars on the Chinese market by building them locally and skirting import tariffs. It noted the cars it will build in China will be electric, and they'll be based on a new architecture developed exclusively for electric models. This rules out the aforementioned electric Hardtop, but it doesn't exclude the X1-sized crossover that's currently being developed. If that's what the company is tacitly referring to, it's scheduled to enter production in 2023, and it might be sold outside of China.

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