It’s Minis to the MAX

A dozen more choices are on the draw­ing­boards, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

BABY car buy­ers will be able to choose from as many as a dozen new Mini and BMW cars in­side five years.

A gi­ant prod­uct push is un­der way, led by the Paceman — a Mini coupe — con­firmed for pro­duc­tion just over a month ago at the Detroit mo­tor show.

BMW Group has plans for cars that will stretch the Mini line-up to more than eight mod­els and also de­liver a front-wheel drive BMW that is smaller than its ex­ist­ing starter car, the 1 Se­ries.

The key is an all-new front-wheel drive me­chan­i­cal plat­form and a small-car strat­egy called UKL.

‘‘The whole group is al­ways look­ing at new niches. The next big step in that di­rec­tion for us is the UKL strat­egy where we will bring a group of cars which are be­low our cur­rent en­try points,’’ Ian Robert­son, global head of sales and mar­ket­ing at BMW Group, tells cars­Guide.

‘‘It’s the front-wheel drive BMW and there will be Mini prod­ucts off it as well. There could be up­wards of 10 de­riv­a­tives of this car, across the two brands. Could be. Not fi­nalised yet.’’

Robert­son con­firms the pro­duc­tion plan for the Paceman coupe but says some spec­u­la­tion on Mini’s fu­ture is wide of the mark.

‘‘What we haven’t got is a mini Mini, de­spite what might have been in the press. We haven’t de­cided if that is the place to be. We have to be very care­ful.’’

Robert­son says BMW Group sees mas­sive growth po­ten­tial in its small- car strat­egy, com­par­ing the even­tual pro­duc­tion tar­gets to the 600-700,000 cars a year de­liv­ered by the 3 Se­ries range at its peak.

‘‘Where all the growth is com­ing in the pre­mium seg­ment is in the small and com­pact cars as we go into the fu­ture,’’ he says. ‘‘In our view, the next 10 years, is where we will see ma­jor growth. And the mar­kets grow­ing around the world are also likely to take these sort of cars.’’

Robert­son will not give any de­tail on the plan, be­yond con­firm­ing the Mini mod­els will still be built in Bri­tain and there is no in­ten­tion to move to low-cost pro­duc­tion in coun­tries such as China or In­dia.

‘‘They will be built in sev­eral places, but pri­mar­ily in Europe,’’ he says.

Al­though BMW was beaten in Aus­tralian show­rooms in 2010 — a re­sult it chal­lenges — Robert­son pre­dicts a Down Un­der come­back in 2011 and con­tin­ued growth in ev­ery coun­try where the coun­try sells its prod­ucts, driven by new mod­els and up­dates of ex­ist­ing ve­hi­cles.

‘‘We will re­place around 60 per cent of our model line-up by the end of 2012. We have the same tar­gets across the world. We want to be the lead­ing pre­mium man­u­fac­turer,’’ Robert­son says.

More Mini: The Paceman coupe will join the Mini range.

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