As car manufacturers try frantically to get ahead of an increasingly environmentally aware audience, it is useful to have some heritage to hang their hat on. Mini, which proclaims its new campaign slogan 'BIG LOVE' with a straight face, notes that the original Mini was created to maximise the space afforded by its tiny footprint so that it might better fit into an urban environment while transporting four people and their luggage. If you allow for modestly sized people, and a very modest amount of luggage, this is true - and a good place for Mini to kick off discussion of its short- to medium-term strategy.
Of course, properly replicating Issigonis's single-minded genius for packaging is probably not on the cards (although you'd hope forthcoming generations of battery-powered Mini might make a better fist of it than the conventional models have) but steadily reducing the firm's CO2 footprint and firmly pitching its tent in the zero-emission global arena most certainly are. You'll recall that the firm launched the Mini Electric last year to good effect; now it has confirmed that from 2023 it will present a new generation of all-electric models.
Significantly, two of these future-proof, battery-powered cars will be built in China. Mini already exports 10 per cent of its sales volume to the world's largest automotive market, and, in order to increase that share, has long indicated that it wishes to graduate from importer to local producer via a partnership with Great Wall. Aside from boasting an all-electric drivetrain, the manufacturer doesn't specify which of its forthcoming models will roll out of its new factory in Zhangjiagang, although confirmation that it is developing a zero-emission 'new crossover in the small-car segment' and enhancing its commitment to the 'premium compact segment... with a new vehicle concept' does potentially narrow it down somewhat.
The latter, most likely a larger crossover, is said to be distinct from the next generation of Mini Countryman that will be built at BMW's plant in Leipzig alongside the X1. While the current model is already sold as a PHEV, the 2023 version - the first Mini to be built in Germany - will still be made available with conventional petrol and diesel engines, alongside hybrid iterations. More broadly, Mini expects to launch its last new model powered by a combustion engine in 2025, and to complete the electrification of the entire range by the early 2030s. In the meantime, it confidently predicts that EVs will make up 50 percent of its global sales by 2027.
If that all sounds like there's a little bit less BIG LOVE for Oxford, then the manufacturer is at pains to reassure us that its UK-based factory will remain at the heart of Mini production. Despite the tilt toward China and Germany, all other cars will apparently still be built there, including the new Mini Convertible, which is penciled in for launch in 2025 (no prizes for guessing where that last petrol engine is going) and the next generation three-door hatchback. The latter is also due in 2023, and is previewed here by the first official prototype images that confirm a) it will look very much like a three-door Mini, and b) will be available as an EV from launch.
Finally, and encouragingly for fans, the firm also stresses that it has not forgotten about the John Cooper Works brand. A battery-powered JCW has been mooted since the Mini Electric launched, and confirmation that the manufacturer is 'working intensively on concepts for electric John Cooper Works models' suggests that the prospect is not too far away - although whether or not BMW's attempt to 'combine sustainability and extreme sportiness in a unique way' heralds a zero-emission pocket rocket or yet another addition to the electrified crossover clan remains to be seen.
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