A sedan is being considered as one of three new vehicles Mini will build as it looks to expand its model range to double figures by 2020.
The BMW-owned British brand is currently in the middle of a major model expansion program, with a coupe version of the Countryman compact SUV arriving in 2013 to take Mini’s range to seven models.
The Countryman coupe will join the recently launched Coupe and Roadster twins, the five-door Countryman, Clubman wagon, Cabriolet, and of course the hatchback that was originally introduced in first-generation form back in 2001.
Mini’s global boss, Kay Segler, says the brand still has plenty of room for model growth, however, following record sales of 285,000 in 2011.
“[Up] until 2020 there can be 10 [Mini variants],” Segler told CarAdvice at the 2012 Geneva motor show. “[The] six variants we have at the moment are not very much. Look at other manufacturers compared to [our] volume … they have many more variants.
“The public has understood now that Mini is not just a small car, or a car with some variants. We are a brand now, with two trees.
“One [tree] is the hatch with its five variants [convertible, wagon, coupe and roadster. Then there’s the Countryman. And then the big branch [off that] is the coupe version.
“We are steadily growing, we are not hastily doing it. And one by one we are rolling out one or another variant. We are not overstretched when it comes to variants.
Segler, who has returned to the helm of Mini after a stint with BMW’s M performance division, says the company is assessing all possible model alternatives.
A four-door model is among the consideration set, with Mini clearly believing it could do something more fun with what is traditionally a conservative body style.
“Let’s see which of the three grand ideas we will choose,” says Segler. “But I can immediately [say a] sedan would be one of them, and then immediately put 7 or 8 [other] ideas on the table where you would say this would fit [with the Mini brand].”
He says while a sedan is a variant Mini is looking at, this choice of model wouldn’t be influenced by China, the world’s biggest car market, where four-doors are popular.
Mini sales grew by a huge margin in China in 2011 and the company believes it can continue to grow significantly with the hatchback and Countryman variants.
Mini will make a decision on the three new variants in 2014, when the third-generation Mini hatch launches.
A production version of the Rocketman concept, a Mini even smaller than the hardtop hatch, is unlikely to be one of the new models.
The 2011 concept served two purposes: to preview components and design ideas that might be applied to Minis in the future, and to test the waters for a ‘mini Mini’.
“These two things were part of the [Rocketman] story,” says Segler. “[But] the question is always the business case. What does the customer expect from a smaller vehicle. Does the customer expect a higher price [for a smaller Mini]? No, they would expect a lower price. Can you guarantee a premium car with lower price and lower costs? [That’s] very difficult.
“[The Rocketman] would totally fit to Mini, it would sell tomorrow morning, but it’s just the business case, as simple as that.”
One other new variant could be a van model, after Mini showed the Clubvan concept, based on the Clubman, at the 2012 Geneva motor show.
Mini’s global annual production was about 290,000 last year but the company has capacity of about 400,000 – with a third of that achievable at its plant in Oxford, England, and about 100,000 possible at coachbuilder Magna Steyr’s Graz factory in Austria, where the Countryman is built.