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This Could Be Mini's Last Chance For Survival

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Mini is going to have trouble staying competitive in an SUV-hungry world.

Many thought it was complete and total sacrilege when BMW’s subsidiary, Rolls-Royce, decided to break over 100 years of tradition and build an SUV, which we now know as the Cullinan. But it’s arguable that the BMW Group’s more unholy move was to merge the X1’s platform with the Mini brand to create the Countryman, mainly because it betrays the very nameplate it wears by not being a car one could call "Mini.”

But alas, it’s not like Mini had much of a choice. In the current market, SUVs are what’s selling. Small coupes and four-door cars, which used to be Mini’s bread and butter, are not. And those same market forces are now pushing Mini to rethink how it’ll continue to sell cars and stay alive, reports Automotive News.

Speaking with BMW Group sales boss Pieter Nota on the sidelines of a Formula E race, AN learned that Mini wants to turn around its US sales figures by offering Americans what’s selling well: more large cars. "That's a growing segment," said Nota. "Without revealing anything, we will see growth in that segment.” Jeff Schuster, president of global forecasting at LMC Automotive, filled the blanks in Nota’s comments by saying, "You see virtually every brand, including the super premiums, moving into these type of vehicles. There is a core buyer for Mini now, and that group is not growing. So moving into this segment could attract new buyers.”

But building more crossovers isn’t the only way that Mini hopes to keep itself relevant. It also plans to diversify its portfolio by building more EVs and performance cars, the latter of which it will sell under its John Cooper Works sub-brand.

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"We are optimistic that with the new models that will come‚ including the Mini Electric, but also John Cooper Works, we can see a healthy future for the Mini brand in the U.S.," said Nota. He also noted that part of Mini’s appeal comes from the fact that it can be classified as an "iconic brand” that doesn’t have many competitors. And since the few competitors it does have, like the Smart ForTwo and Volkswagen Beetle, are abandoning the US market, Nota thinks this is Mini’s time to swoop in for the kill by continuing to offer those customers an option. "Unlike some of our competitors, we are not turning our back to the U.S.," Nota said. "We see that even as an opportunity.”

No matter which route Mini takes, what is certain is that the company’s future will bear a vehicle lineup that looks much different than today’s.