At the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show, BMWBLOG spent some time talking about MINI and its future with the MINI Chief of Design, Anders Warming. Since December 2010, Anders Warming has held the post of Head of MINI Design. His career path has been the realisation of a childhood dream: Warming never wanted to do anything else but design cars. Barring a short gap, Danish-born Warming has spent his entire professional career with the BMW Group: from DesignworksUSA via BMW Design to MINI Design.
Warming talked to us about what’s in store for MINI and how the MINI customers are influencing design as well.
BMWBLOG: The new MINI, can you talk briefly about the new design?
Anders Warming: This summer was very important for us because we showed the MINI Vision version, the concept car. We showed it at home, we had a design event at our facilities that basically showed two things: one is the vision of the brand, and the other being the team that we are, how we work.
I think the MINI Vision really ties it altogether because it shows a thing that I’ve been talking about for years, that I believe that MINI – in the past and always in the future – has to strike the perfect balance between where you come from and where are you going to. It sounds almost like a cliché, 50% heritage, 50% future, but I believe it goes hand in hand.
If you look at the Vision, that for me shows exactly that: we have a car that’s resting on itself but it’s a MINI heritage while it’s also giving you new design features. It is also giving you the new freedom of a better day / tomorrow / the day to come, and basically is the vision of the brand.
It’s a perfect balance between engineering, technology and also the heritage – where we come from.
BMWBLOG: How difficult is it for you to keep the MINI car as it is and slowly iterate on? It seems that you as designers try to keep the same MINI style, design, without trying to move too far from that. How difficult is it for a designer to slowly design those elements?
Anders Warming: Actually, for me it’s quite the contrary, it’s not difficult. It is fun, it’s a good thing that you are asked to do. Obviously, when I’m in a job and I’m being asked about this-that and that and we make proposals for it, I believe that we make decision on the spot – simple decisions. A lot of times in a brand like MINI you make a decision here and now: “Is it right for the brand or not?” “Is it right for the car or not?” Or even if in a dialogue with my marketing colleagues, “Is this the right concept for a certain campaign or for show stand?”
It’s very easy to answer if it’s the right thing for MINI or not.
BMWBLOG: Is the MINI customer changing?
Anders Warming: Yes, I think that MINI is changing in the regards to the world around us is going through a change towards user interface, connectivity. I think MINI customers were always on a fore-front of that, maybe even more so now. That’s going to be a huge challenge for all brands, and especially for MINI, to make sure that customers’ demands in terms of connectivity are being fulfilled. I believe this is also going to shape our belief in future interior and architecture. Volume of the interior is going to be shaped by the way we use our connectivity modules.
BMWBLOG: Speaking of the connectivity and technology, BMW Group has been using quite a bit of flat panels lately. Is that something that will work for the MINI design? Or will you keep the classic approach?
Anders Warming: Quite on the contrary, we’ve always had a special layout on the dashboard which is an icon with the round display in the middle. It’s a thing that I will hold onto as an icon for MINI – as I was saying it’s an easy decision if it’s the right decision.
On the MINI Vision it was important for me to show how the future will be, and there are three levels to it:
- The driver’s functions – rpm, speed, gas gauge are centered on the steering column. On the MINI Vision we show that’s really what the drivers need, the information needed to do his job
- The central display is a platform for connectivity. It’s connected to the whole car, so everything that you need to know – of course, the navigation, traditional things, are included – but online, Facebook post, Buddy Radar, all these features are attached to this user interface
- On the Vision we show that the rest of the interior surfaces are also lit up, so maybe the floor will have the blinker going off, when you go right and it’s blinking, the whole floor is giving you this feedback.
So user interface becomes the whole environment you’re sitting in, and that is something that we have on the MINI Vision as the concept car, and things that will be introduced in stages to the public after that.
BMWBLOG: So two panel regions for information is over?
Anders Warming: I think that people are getting accustomed to getting the information right here, right now. And I think customers – and I feel that myself as well – are getting finicky or very particular about the information they want. They get very sensitive to information all alone. They have no problems with that in the moment that you don’t need the information; they just want to have an intuitive way of turning it off, and then an intuitive way of turning it on when they need it.
It’s about intuitive interaction and that is going to shape the architecture of the interior, and the MINI Vision concept car we shown already gives that premium vision.
BMWBLOG: BMW Group talks quite often about lightness and use of lightweigh materials. Have you learned something from BMW i that could be used in the future ?
Anders Warming: Definitely. The technology that has got into the BMW i brand is basically BMW Group knowledge and is spreading right now across the board within all the organization. The new X5 has got hugely weight savings in the car, a big achievement for an X5 , so you see that the movement is happening inside.
The same applies to MINI, of course, and we’ll make sure to keep our weight targets. We always set a lower target, wanting to achieve that and we’ll have to see that definitely at the end of the day also, is that’s what fits on the road.
When designing cars – we always have to keep in mind that it really doesn’t matter what brand we are talking about – weight saving is a very important thing. But there is also huge requirements: on one hand things like pedestrian protection that we have to integrate, all the features that are going into the cars, and on the other hand, the things that the customer would like to have more. So there will be new features to be introduced, and that altogether is still for me a great achievement to underscore the weight targets, with the things you add into the car. So that’s the huge challenge for the future, but I think we’re on a good way to do that as well.
BMWBLOG: The new front-wheel drive architecture – is that helping you in any way with the design?
Anders Warming: I believe so, obviously on several aspects: it is new and it is the new better solution that gives you even more specific MINI driving feeling. Especially MINI customers are very particular about the MINI driving like a MINI, and this drivetrain actually helps us, puts that in place even more so.
And the other way around, I think also that we’ve done a great job for the MINI side, working jointly together with the BMW colleagues, on platforms for the BMW cars, and then have the same drivetrain.
So both brands, BMW and MINI are profiting from jointly working together, but it’s very important and I can guarantee you that a BMW will drive like a BMW and a MINI will drive like a MINI.
BMWBLOG: On the inside, are there any new materials that we should expect to see in the future MINIs?
Anders Warming: I think that the level of value is definitely going to go up by a huge amount: quality in every material, everywhere you look in the interior is going to be more premium than what you’ve seen so far. In that sense it’s not new materials, it’s new processes, new ways, but the customer is going to experience significant jump in quality and appearance of the MINI interior, personally also because I believe that the processes right now are at a point where you have to do that, it’s an obvious thing to do.
Second thing, we’ll always going to be dealing with things – especially for my side – that are going to be centered around the issue of sustainability. How can we offer materials where we can certify that there’s a large portion of recycling that is gone to this material? For the future, these materials are going to find their ways into MINI. At the end of the day, for one specific reason, MINI is always about clever engineering, and clever engineering for me is also closely linked to the thought of sustainability.
BMWBLOG: Is there any room in the MINI lineup for new variants?
Anders Warming: At this point we have a lineup of seven cars, and that’s a large amount of cars for a brand that just brought its new cars 12-13 years ago. And that is the amount of cars that we’re going to move forward with – at least I can confirm that.
The main thing is that MINI has a good size right now, as far as the amount of cars that we have and the kind of offering that we’re giving to customers. I think it’s good that we have cars that can be considered as entry – as far as size goes, but can be brought to a premium level. Of course we have cars that have more than 4 meters and offer 5 seating position.
BMWBLOG: Will we see even more customization offered to the customers?
Anders Warming: I believe that we’re not going to have maybe a number going up because MINI is already champion at offering the most opportunities. I think we’re going to stay at that level that we have, but what I have a wish for is to have these customization option to penetrate even more into the cars that are driven on the road. It’s a great example of the cars: Bond Street, Hyde Park. These vehicles already give you pre-configured individualization packages and our hope is what we’re working for is for these cars to penetrate into the market because they really are turnkey customization objects.
BMWBLOG: What kind of car do you drive?
Anders Warming: [with a big smile on his face ] I have a Clubman John Cooper Works. I’m changing cars pretty often, every 8-9 months. Every time ordering a new company car is a big thing for me because I think “What can I get now?” It really is a tough choice and it’s hard to get rid of one car and move on. And I end up having hard time letting the MINI go when getting it back.
BMWBLOG: Anders, thank you so much for your time!