Mini Australia general manager Kai Bruesewitz confirmed the production version of the Mini Paceman concept will be the next all-new model line to be added to the range.
Bruesewitz says the production Paceman – the name will carry over into showrooms – will be “quite similar” to the concept that debuted at the 2011 Detroit motor show.
“The concept was perceived very well at the various shows last year. As long as we can realise that concept into a production-ready model then we will do so.”
The Paceman concept combined the chunky styling and higher ride height of the Countryman SUV with the Coupe’s sloping ‘helmet head’ floating roof. It was powered by the 155kW/260Nm 1.6-litre turbocharged John Cooper Works petrol engine.
Bruesewitz says Paceman production should begin in the first half of 2013, with cars likely to arrive in Australia from midyear.
Bruesewitz admitted Mini Australia would need to look closely at the business case for the Clubvan, however, as it would likely be a very low-volume model for the brand.
Beyond that, the new head honcho – who has spent more than a decade with BMW Group, mostly in Germany – teased other models, promising: “We’re going to see more [in Australia]”.
“There are discussions for several other models because Mini wants to grow, but nothing has been confirmed yet.
“Our colleagues in Munich are thinking in various directions and, of course, with very dynamic markets all around the world there might be some potential for a certain car in [different markets].”
He said the brand was unlikely to launch a model larger than the Countryman, but suggested similar-sized cars were not off the table. While a city-sized car in the mould of the 2011 Mini Rocketman concept is still under consideration, Bruesewitz said it is currently low on Mini’s priority list.
Despite achieving record local sales in 2011 – a result Bruesewitz said he “couldn’t be happier with” – Mini has largely been treading water in Australia since 2005. The brand sold 2097 cars here in that year, and has continued in the low 2000s each year leading up to last year’s 2291 result.
Bruesewitz insists 2012 will be another record year for Mini Australia, with the Coupe and Roadster models set to re-spark interest in the brand as well as have an incremental impact on sales.
The brand has made a good start in the first two months, with February’s VFACTS industry sales figures expected to show Mini is around 13 per cent ahead of the same time last year, with approximately 325 sales so far.
Mini says it has been encouraged by the improved performance of the Countryman, following a repositioning of the range in December that saw the entry price fall $4000 to $33,700.
The Countryman accounted for 18.7 per cent of Mini sales in Australia last year after launching in February. Globally, the quirky SUV made up almost a third of the marque’s sales, and Bruesewitz said that was ultimately the level Mini Australia wanted to get to. The range will be boosted in the fourth quarter of 2013 when the flagship John Cooper Works Countryman hits our shores.
Mini expects the new Coupe and Roadster to account for 15 per cent of sales in Australia, with 90 per cent of those to be the entry-level Cooper S variants.
The introduction of the Roadster is likely to have an impact on Cabrio sales, which fell more than 50 per cent last year (403 vs 201).
Mini Australia corporate communications manager Piers Scott said cannibalisation was a natural side effect of expanding any brand, but said low volumes of specific models was not really a concern.
“If we’re selling more cars, we’re not too fussed about where that volume might be coming from,” Scott said.
“Is there potential cannibalisation between the models? Okay sure, you’ve got two convertibles in the line-up now, but as Mini becomes a marque rather than just one or two models you’re going to get more overlap just like we do in our other brand [BMW].”