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BMW introduces a fifth Mini

By raccars Published

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BMW expands the Mini range with a new saloon, a fifth model based upon the standard Mini.

BMW has long been promising that its Mini brand would be made up of five distinct models, and rumour has it that the fifth is to be a saloon. As the German parent company continues with its premium ambitions for the city car brand, there is also speculation that BMW could employ the Riley name, since it is the owner of the trademark.

BMW taking Mini upmarket

At this stage no official confirmation has been given but a saloon is expected as part of the evolution of Mini's brand image. And, given the scope of the other models in the Mini range, it's a logical conclusion. The Mini is now into its third generation under BMW ownership and is moving into more mature and elegant territory and slightly away from the funky and youthful image which has always been its calling card. Customers are apparently responding well to this strategy.

The first step in this product evolution was the introduction of three and five door versions of the hatchback, forming the base model in the proposed five model line-up. Two further spots are taken up by the Clubman and Convertible models, both of which added some grown-up polish to the Mini brand.

The fourth model in the group is the Countryman, the second generation of which is to be released later in the year, larger and smarter than its predecessor.

The fifth superhero

The industry has been waiting for news on the fifth car in the group ever since Mini boss Peter Schwarzenbauer announced the 'five superheroes' strategy back in 2014. However earlier in the year Ralph Mahler, vice president of product management at Mini, did confirm that the company had been conducting feasibility studies on all sorts of Mini variations and studying current market trends closely. While at the New York Motor Show last month he commented that he was very interested in the popularity of the saloon format in the US and Asian markets.

The Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet

The Mini name has been linked with saloons in the past, with two relatively little known variations on the theme released in the Sixties as the Riley Elf and the Wolseley Hornet. Mahler claimed to be keen to emphasise the Mini's illustrious heritage in all projects but admitted that saloon format Minis were largely an unknown quantity to the general public.

Whether the public would recognise and connect with past attempts at a Mini saloon and whether such a model would find a niche worldwide as well as in China and America are the questions that must be answered in order to make a solid business case for the car. Mahler also hinted at the possibility of exploring as yet untouched market segments for the Mini brand rather than continually building upon the same base model.

The Mini brand achieved global sales of 338,466 units last year, and with new models the expectation is that sales could ultimately reach 500,000 or more. BMW owns the Riley and Triumph trademarks, acquired as part of the deal when it took on Mini after the collapse of MG Rover in 2000. Given the stated importance of heritage as part of its development processes, it would be logical to conclude that the Riley name would fit well with a modern Mini saloon.

A Mini saloon could easily be developed from the Clubman model, using an identical or similar front end and adapting the rear to make a three box layout. The result would be a very small saloon, which fits the brand's sales ethos of forming the smallest model in a given market segment.

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