Mini`s line-up is about to be thoroughly consolidated.
The British carmaker, relaunched in 2001 under BMW`s ownership as a retro-themed lifestyle brand, has been a resounding success . . . as far as its core models go.
Some of the derivatives have been far less successful: The Roadster and the Coupe fared poorly, and the Paceman-a three-door derivative of the Countryman-soon will be gone as well. The `Shooting Brake` approach of the first Clubman has made way for a more conventional layout, while the Clubvan-no, we`ve never seen a live example either-was killed even before that happened.
Brand CEO Peter Schwarzenbauer has decided Mini needs to focus on five core models, or the `superheroes,` as he calls them. Our sources tell us that three of the current models/their successors have ironclad places in the future lineup: The Mini Hardtop, the Mini Clubman, and the Mini Countryman, the last of which will be redesigned in late 2016. The five-door Mini counts as part of the Hardtop line. As to the vehicles that will fill the final two `superhero` slots, that`s when it gets interesting. We`ve been told that more than 10 ideas have been floated.
It`s a certainty that the fourth model will be an open-top Mini. It could take the form of the current cabriolet, but Mini is considering differentiating it further in the vein of something similar to-but not exactly like-the Roadster. We understand that a model resembling the production Superleggera, which our artist has rendered above, is among the less likely options.
As to the fifth model, the discussion is wide open. We believe the most likely scenario is a shorter city car, possibly a two-seater inspired by the Rocketman concept [above]. But Mini also could go for a number of other concepts, including a sporty four-door sedan [as per this report] and a small, retro-flavored minivan aimed at satisfying those who still want a re-born VW Microbus.
Mini will play a part in the BMW Group`s electrification push, too. The brand has history in the space with the Mini E, the first generation of which was a precursor to the electrified 1-series ActiveE and the i3. A plug-in-hybrid version of the next Countryman has been confirmed, but we hear that Mini is looking to offer a fully electric model, as well. It could be based on any of the five `superheroes` described above; a likely scenario will see it take the form of a short city car.
BMW and Mini`s top brass and a small number of platform engineers are discussing the brand`s strategy with some urgency: `A decision is imminent before the end of the year,` we are told, somewhat paradoxically. Stay tuned.