DETROIT –AG’s Mini lineup will include a 2-door version of the Countryman in 2013 or so offering all-wheel drive to customers interested in a sporty version of the bigger Mini.
The final version of the Paceman presented at the North American International Auto Show here will be very similar to the concept, says Ian Robertson, theboard member in charge of Mini.
The car will be made in Austria byInternational Inc., on the same line that makes the Mini Countryman.
Mini enjoyed its best sales year in 2010, with 234,000 units sold around the world, says Robertson, and the U.S. is the biggest market.
The Countryman, which just now is going on sale here, accounted for 15,000 deliveries last year in global markets where it was available, amounting to one-fifth of Minis sold in those regions. Global ambitions for 2011 are 60,000 units.
The Countryman is Mini’s only 4-door model, and Robertson believes the U.S. “will adopt it very warmly.”
The 2-door Paceman version, with a 1.6L engine, will appeal to younger drivers who want 4-wheel drive but in a sporty package, he predicts. “It is a masculine coupe with the dimensions of the Countryman.”
The Mini lineup now is made up of four vehicles: the hardtop, convertible, Clubman and Countryman. A Mini coupe will be added later this year and a roadster in 2012. The Paceman will follow, with engineering beginning now on the production version.
Mini returned to the U.S. 10 years ago, which is its biggest single market with 300,000 units on the road.
For the moment, the only electrification in production Minis is the stop/start system that currently is used with manual transmissions and soon will be introduced with automatics. Across all BMW models worldwide, stop/start is on the road in 2.1 million vehicles.
In addition, Mini has 600 battery-electric vehicles in various test fleets around the world, says Manager Markus Sagemann. Results from the Mini E test fleets will first show up in the BMW i-car, an electric city vehicle now in development.
Later, the Mini brand may get electric versions, says Robertson. “Mini is already frugal with fuel economy, but there is potential for an electric Mini.”
BMW believes that in 10 years battery-electric vehicles could account for 5%-7% of the market, a higher figure than many OEMs anticipate. Hybrids will hold a 20%-25% share, he says, and will be an important technology for BMW models.
However, hybridizing Minis has not been decided. “We focus on a broad spectrum of technologies,” Robertson says. “Whatever solution is required, we have the answer.”