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Mini: the 50th anniversary and new models galore

Wed, 27 May 2009 00:00:00 -0700

By Phil McNamara

Motor Industry

27 May 2009 13:14

Mini’s renaissance is entering a new phase of electric power, 4x4 crossovers and yet more bodystyles, said BMW marketing chief Ian Robertson at the British brand’s 50th birthday party.

Over the last May bank holiday weekend, some 15,000 Mini fans converged on Silverstone, for a three-day festival of cars, racing and music. The company revealed three special editions: high-spec Camden and Mayfair models, plus the 211bhp World Championship 50 Edition in homage to racing team boss John Cooper.

Marketing chief Robertson reflected on Mini’s revival since 2001, under BMW’s stewardship. ‘We knew the Mini had untapped potential, so we decided to develop another icon with go-kart handling and a quintessential design, and we turned it into one of the world’s most successful premium brands.’

He – and BMW – are chuffed with the results: 1.4m sales over the past eight years, an average transaction price of €22,000, and sales around the world including 54,000 in the US in 2008, when it became the small car’s biggest market.

So what's next for Mini?

Now comes phase three of the Mini’s rebirth. The brand is spearheading BMW’s push into electric drivetrains, with the Mini E. Some 500 silent, torquey, zero emission Minis will be a real-world test bed for going electric, with 200 each testing in Canada and New York, plus another 50 in both Berlin and – hopefully – London, if British politicians back the project.

Drivers will test whether the claimed 130-mile range is sufficient, what kind of charging infrastructure is required, and put the focus on how governments should generate more ‘clean’ electricity, most likely by going nuclear.

Mini veers off-road with the new Crossover

The next production model, due in late 2010, is the Mini crossover. ‘This has four doors, measures over 4 metres in length, has four seats and four-wheel drive,’ said Robertson. While four appears to be the magic number, the jacked-up Mini will be available with just two-wheel drive as well. With its high roof and bigger boot, the crossover promises more practicality than the Clubman.

Before then, expect to see some more Mini concepts – a Speedster and Moke would be popular choices – at the Frankfurt show in September 2009. New special editions will start filtering through around the same time.

John Cooper’s son Mike and 1964 Monte Carlo winner Paddy Hopkirk presented the World Championship 50. Resplendent in John Cooper’s favoured Connaught Green paint, this Cooper S Works has jet black 17-inch alloys, and carbon parts including the bonnet scoop, mirror caps and dashboard inserts. Mini has ticked every option and added a Harmon Kardon stereo, so expect an eye-watering price for the 250-run of cars.

Special edition Minis galore: Camden and Mayfair

The new Mini Camden and Mayfair (pictured above) won’t be limited in numbers, although they will be available for just one year. Dealers shifted well over the predicted 2000 of the Checkmate and Park Lane, special editions of the previous generation Mini, and company suits expect the new specials to hold 4-5% more value than regular models.

The Mayfair was shown in hot chocolate with toffee metallic bonnet stripes, and white, 17-inch rims. The interior mixes brown leather and carbon black trim. A Cooper Mayfair is £13,715, while the diesel and S cost £14,785 and £16,580 respectively.

Mini presented the Camden in white silver metallic, which filters through to the cloth/leather sports seats inside. The Camden is priced from £18,615 to £21,030.

By Phil McNamara