Why is MINI so important to BMW?

MINI | January 7th, 2016 by 7
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When BMW first purchased the famous British marquee, MINI, there wasn’t much of an impact on either brand right away. MINI still produced cars that …

When BMW first purchased the famous British marquee, MINI, there wasn’t much of an impact on either brand right away. MINI still produced cars that felt very typical of its brand heritage and there was very little BMW in them. Now, however, with shared platforms, engines and other components, the familial bond between the two companies is very apparent. And this bond with MINI is extremely important to the BMW for many reasons. While there are a few BMW fans who dislike the new found bond between MINI and the Bavarians, as they feel that it cheapens and dilutes the brand, the British brand is pivotal in BMW’s future success.

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MINI has an equally as loyal of a following as BMW does, if not more loyal, thanks to the brand’s quirky acquired taste. MINI fans typically stay within the MINI brand for as long as possible, as once you’ve come to love the plucky British brand’s way of doing things, it’s hard to find the same level of joy in something else. And because many new MINIs now share quite a bit of technology and interior pieces from BMW, it makes it an easy transition for MINI customers to get into BMWs. This brings in a younger crowd for BMW, people moving up from the MINI brand into the entry-level BMW models, such as the 2 Series and 3 Series.

Those shared components and platforms also keep MINI very profitable, which in turn makes BMW more profitable. It also gives BMW more flexibility in its entry-level cars, such as the new BMW X1 that shares its platform with MINI. This platform sharing saves money for both brands, thus bringing profits up.

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The MINI brand also gives BMW a larger reach across the automotive spectrum, as it handles the premium market itself, but MINI handles a lower-end premium market that BMW cannot compete in on its own. Cars like the Volkswagen GTI have been dominating that segment for a long time and cars like the Cooper S give BMW a horse in that race. And because BMW may not want to enter that race on its own, due to the possibly tarnishing of its brand prestige, it has MINI do that.

And MINI needs BMW just as much, as BMW is helping to reduce costs for its products with its shared components and its helping the British brand to clean up its model line. MINI is starting to eliminate some of the dead weight in its lineup that was weighing the company down and we’re starting to see it already. The new model line doesn’t feature such cars as the Paceman, Rocketman, Spaceman Walkman or Discman or anything else with a silly name. Now, it’s just the Cooper, Clubman and upcoming Countryman and each of them serves a specific purpose in the lineup. This gives its customers an exact model to fit their needs and gives BMW something to sell to customers in that market. So it’s a win/win for both brands.

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Typically, it’s the smaller company that benefits more from the larger and more prestigious company, as it can borrow resources to help its brand. But in this case, both brands are equally useful to each other. It gives BMW a more well-rounded model line, as now it has cars in the lower range, its own BMW models that fill the sort of middle-to-high end of the market and it has Rolls Royce to fill in the ultra-high end section of the market. So MINI rounds BMW out while providing the brand with competitors in a segment it would otherwise be left out of and it also provides a launching pad for new technologies, platforms and components. So expect to see a long and successful relationship between the British and Bavarian brands.

7 responses to “Why is MINI so important to BMW?”

  1. Michael says:

    I don’t think that the MINI brand, in any way, dilutes the BMW brand. In fact, that BMW utilizes the MINI brand to sell sub-premium vehicles rather than the BMW marque helps to preserve BMW’s brand equity. I was surprised to learn from this article that some feel differently.

    I wonder how many MINI consumers do actually move up to BMWs? Great article.

    • Thanks, appreciate that.

      It’s typically an older BMW audience who are used to pre-MINI BMW. So the idea of a BMW using parts shared with a MINI (like the BMW X1) rubs some people the wrong way.

    • darex says:

      There’s very little reason to do so now, but only since the advent of the 3rd Generation (i.e. F-series) MINIs, as they now incorporate nearly every single technology (even the nomenclature of the packages is the same) that BMW uses in its models. The iDrive is the same, the seats are the same, the switches are from the same parts bin, the engines are similar or the same, seating position, and many other aspects are the same or extremely similar. They even feel similar in how they drive.

      The X1 and next Countryman will be first-cousins, as is the Clubman and any future BMW models that use the UKL platform.

      So, unless you must have a Roundel, you can have 90% of the same “experience” but save $10,000-$25,000 by buying a MINI versus the most-similar BMW model.

      I am willing to wager that any long-standing BMW driver (especially of 2er, 3er) would be very surprised at how familiar the F-series MINIs feel.

  2. Chris S says:

    I definitely agree with this article. I can’t see how MINI would dilute or hurt the BMW brand in any way, only help it. MINIs are amazing little cars made for every type and class of people, they have no real demographic in my opinion as nobody looks silly driving one, they’re just fun and everyone can appreciate that. This brings lots of new people into the BMW ecosystem who might otherwise later move to other brands, myself included.

    I bought my first MINI hardtop three years ago and fell in love. When it was time for me to move on I considered a few cars, F-Type, C63, even Alfa. But the similarities between current BMWs and my then current R56 pulled me towards BMW. I already knew how I would be treated as a customer, I was already spoiled by MINIs version of iDrive, and I appreciated the handling and driving dynamics of the brand. None of these factors would have played a part in my buying decision and I probably would have gone with the better looking jag, the more exotic Alfa, or the more luxurious C63 if I didn’t get a taste of the BMW blood that ran through my MINI.

  3. Giom says:

    I must admit, the earlier MINIs never grew on me me – till now. It’s almost as if BMW ‘got’ where MINI needs to slot in – mechanical and design wise. Design wise, nothing changed a lot, instead it evolved into something really admirable. Inside and out.

  4. Kaisuke971 says:

    BMW should’ve sticked to use Mini for their smaller cars. Rolls Royce is feeling great at the top-end, they have the best image you could think of for that, and BMW makes a smart use of it. MINI also has a strong image, and it fits the segment where BMW is not… They MINI + BMW + Rolls Royce thing is really great actually.

    But instead of trying to put BMW’s quality into lower segments, they should’ve fixed MINI’s problem. They already have nice design, but the quality and reliability is not there ! I think the group would be better if BMW putted the original Mini in Polo segment, then added another one for the X1 thing, plus the family cars (MINI fits perfectly to the people BMW wants to touch with its Tourers).

    What would happen is that boom there would have been a platform for the actual X1, a 1 (sedan), an X2, a 2 (coupe/cabrio/gran Coupe) and maybe a miata fighter (Z2). There would not be a sedan but a compact version of the 1 (which is possible… i guess), which would be the A3 fighter.

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