Mini is hoping these changes will help boost sales in the US.
Big changes are happening at Mini right now. The automaker recently announced plans to move production to China for the first time to develop localized versions of the all-electric Mini Cooper SE. Looking ahead, the next-generation Mini Cooper is expected to be smaller than the current model, marking a return to the automaker's roots.
Conversely, however, the Clubman could get a lot larger in the future. According to Autocar, the next-generation Mini Clubman will be reinvented as an SUV to help improve the brand's appeal in the US market. Currently, the Countrymanis the only SUV in Mini's lineup but it's simply too small for American customers to justify the asking price, which is causing Mini to lose sales in the US market.
To rectify this, Chief designer Oliver Heilmer hinted that the next Clubman will adopt an SUV body style. It makes sense because the wagon is only slightly shorter and wider than the Countryman and isn't much cheaper.
Hatchbacks and sedans aren't in high demand anymore, so this could be a pivotal move to boost Mini's sales in the US. However, it's unclear whether the Clubman will become significantly larger than the Countryman. Alternatively, the Countryman could also grow in size, resulting in two SUVs with different sizes tailored for different customer needs.
Heilmer added that Mini is working to increase the interior space of its next-generation hatchback. "For future architecture, we're having weekly discussions to improve interior space and reduce the car's footprint. But it's not solved yet. Maybe next year." He also added that the "development cost is also an issue."
"It's not necessarily the internal combustion engine that needs the space – even with an EV (which has a smaller motor) you still need a crash box," Heilmer added, referring to the deformable structure around the powertrain. "Crash performance is the bigger issue."
Mini's design team is working to improve the hatchback's design "quite a lot. The footprint is most crucial with the hatch," Heilmer said. "Size is less of a problem with the other models. I want each model to be the smallest in the segment, or visually the smallest." However, Heilmer admitted that "small may not be helpful for sales," which could result in a larger Clubman.
Some of the Mini's most iconic design features could also be changed for the next-generation model. While the Mini's iconic face will still be recognizable, the taillights "may not stay iconic" according to Heilmer. "We've got to be proactive, not reactive," he said. The interior's toggle switches are also being re-evaluated. "They're good on the hatch, less so on the others perhaps," Heilmer said, hinting that Mini's future larger models may not have retro-inspired cabins.