- More personalization, design diversity, larger variants and electrification all are under consideration for the next-generation Mini range that's due out toward the end of the decade.
- BMW is having internal discussions about how extensive the new Mini lineup eventually should be, revealed Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW's board member in charge of Mini.
- "We've got up to 10 ideas for new Mini models," Schwarzenbauer said.
DETROIT — More personalization, design diversity, larger variants and electrification all are under consideration for the next-generation Mini lineup that's due out toward the end of the decade, according to a top executive at German parent BMW.
The automaker is having internal discussions about how extensive the new Mini lineup eventually should be, revealed Peter Schwarzenbauer, the BMW board member who heads up the Mini, Roll-Royce and BMW motorcycle brands.
"We've got up to 10 ideas for new Mini models," Schwarzenbauer said, noting that the UKL platform on which the latest Mini is based allows for future variants even longer than today's Mini Countryman.
But the company also is working in parallel on the idea that "less is more" for the fourth-generation Mini lineup, he said. "We could concentrate on four or five models that are heroes," by which he means models developed to a very high standard.
Also being considered are models that less obviously resemble the core Mini hatchback.
"Do they all have to look like Minis? The Mini fans say yes," said Schwarzenbauer. He suggested that if the cars "have a certain DNA, like a family of kids," then there might be scope for models that diverge more substantially from the standard Mini, a strategy that he said "would open doors" to more variety.
The brand is hardly struggling: A record 305,000 Minis were sold globally in 2013, and demand has remained strong for the outgoing hatchback right to the end of its life. The potential for growth in China is far from realized, he added, with less than 10 percent of Mini sales coming from this country.
In the more immediate future, BMW is considering new ways to personalize the Mini, including the possibility of changing features later in the car's life. Schwarzenbauer cited interior and exterior trim pieces as examples, with such alterations possible as long as they "don't affect the car's crash behavior." Dealers would carry out these swaps, but Schwarzenbauer envisions elements that could be performed by owners, too.
More radically, he said BMW is considering downloadable apps that would allow the car to be upgraded — or downgraded — if the next owner didn't want to pay for the feature. As an example, he cited seat heater elements, which would be built into all Minis and activated by buying an app that the next owner could decline if he or she didn't want it.
Schwarzenbauer sees the Mini brand as "being in the vanguard of technology for the BMW group," not least through electrification: "Mini is an urban brand, and a natural for electrification."
Schwarzenbauer also said that having a U.K. design studio for the brand "is a good idea. We have to emphasize the British thing a bit more." Currently all Minis are designed in Munich.
Edmunds says: Car shoppers may see some tweaks to the Mini lineup in the future, but the vehicles will still retain their British charm.