Don’t be surprised to see the Mini family expand in other directions down the track, since the company sees potential models such as a medium SUV entirely possible so long as they adhere to the fun-to-drive ethos of the regular hatch.
That is the line of thinking within the BMW-owned car maker, as espoused to CarAdvice this week at the global launch of the new five-door Hatch model in the UK by Mini head of communications Andreas Lampka, though nothing properly new appears far beyond the mere brainstorm stage yet.
And if you are a Mini purist that wants to see the polar opposite approach taken, Lampka suggests you have a chat to Porsche and its hugely profitable approach to diversifying beyond its core with the Panamera and Cayenne, an approach that held off what he said would have been bankruptcy.
Speculation has for some time suggested that Mini would seek to rationalise its range and focus more on core models, but while the company remains committed to greater differentiation between future iterations, it has not ruled out a range expansion beyond what we have at present.
The clues are already out there. The new hatch sits on the BMW Group’s UKL front-drive platform that is designed to accommodate as many as 12 front- and all-wheel-drive BMW-badged cars and, crucially, as many as 10 Mini model lines, though there is no guarantee all will reach fruition.
The consideration of adding ever-more models to its growing family, beyond the extant Hatch, Cabrio, Coupe, Roadster, Clubman, Countryman and Paceman (the latter no guarantee to survive) matches the drive within parent company BMW to occupy a raft of model niches.
And while the modular UKL — an architecture that can stretch to fit models of all sizes from a base Mini through to the next BMW X1 — makes this process more streamlined, it’s an attitude that already reigns at Mini.
When asked if the slow sales of cars such as the Paceman or Coupe gave it pause for thought and perhaps highlighted some need to streamline the range, Lampka said: “I know it sounds very arrogant, but do we care?”
“The Paceman is 87 per cent Countryman… the same applies to Coupe and Roadster [in relation to the Hatch], they’re that related that we really don’t mind if the customer ticks the box that says Coupe or Hatch, we’re making money on everything we build.
“… The possibility to produce further spin-offs are there really. The economics are there, especially since there are some components and the architecture which we share with BMW.”
We asked Lampka directly if there was scope for a car larger than the Countryman mini crossover, for instance.
“Why not? If you keep it Mini, definitely yes [it is possible],” he said. “In the past we’ve been seeing for example with BMW that whenever the driving dynamics of the car are compromised by its size and it loses that ‘driving machine’ [ethos] as we put it, then we will not build that car because that would sacrifice that brand core, and same as Mini.
“Why don’t we [BMW] have a car bigger than 7 series? There’s only one reason. Because it wouldn’t handle like a BMW. And why is it that we currently don’t have a car bigger than Countryman? Because it definitely would not be able to handle [like a Mini].
“But we have new technologies coming. When we [BMW] did X6 everyone said ‘that’s not a real BMW’… but we gave it torque-vectoring on the rear axle and it suddenly did [handle]. So there are advancements that let us do that… Could there be a bigger Mini than Countryman? Yes, definitely, if it comes close to handling like a regular Mini, then yes, definitely. If it doesn’t, then forget about it.”
When asked what Mini might say to a purist who said any Mini beyond the classic, Italian Job-style classic wasn’t somehow a ‘proper’ Mini, Lampka said a quick look at the Porsche example would explain why an expansion was necessary.
“I would like to invite them to a shared press conference with Porsche, and ask Porsche the same question… fans say Porsche should only build a 911 and nothing else, but that company would be bankrupt by now, and you need to see it like that.
“There needs to be a model range that has the character of the brand. So a Panamera supports the Porsche brand and is the ‘Porsche’ way to do a car in that segment, and it is exactly that same with Mini, [how] we see Countryman.
“There is historically no reference to the Countryman name, which appeared in the 60s, but there is no historic reference to a four-wheel-driven car, but still if you want to drive something that comes close to Mini in that segment you can’t ignore Countryman [for instance].”