The automotive world is changing at a faster pace than ever. The technology breakthroughs of recent years seem to exponentially speed things up and brands have to keep on top of these new waves to make sure they survive. At the moment, the Holy Grail seems to be reaching a fully autonomous experience behind the wheel which goes hand in hand with developing electric cars. Oliver Heilmer, the Design Chief of MINI, thinks that while we’re chasing these goes, we need to remember who we are.

Most manufacturers will offer autonomous cars in the future, that’s not up for debate. But since all of them will be doing so, what will set the brands apart? According to Heilmer, it will be the way we connect and interact with the devices themselves. In a recent interview, Oliver points to this as a potential game changer for certain brands, including MINI, of course: “The key thing for me is that the substance of MINI remains authentic.”

He then added: “Another important issue which will occupy our minds a whole lot more than it does today even is the relationship between car and customer. We know that our MINI customers have a special connection to their car and also the brand. So wouldn’t it be great, in the future, to also be able to communicate and interact in a way we’re only currently familiar with between people and good friends, instead of via menus and clicks? I see great potential for MINI as a pioneer here.”

That’s definitely an interesting prospect but from concept to reality, there’s still a long way to go. There’s definitely room for development here and the concepts BMW and MINI showed for the anniversary of the blue and white Roundel’s centenary definitely moved in the right direction. The MINI Vision Next 100 car featured a personal assistant that was definitely set up to fit the brand’s character. Maybe that’s what the future holds for brands such as MINI.

That could very well be the best way to differentiate brands in the future, since electric, autonomous cars will slowly migrate to more and more standardized box-shapes, leaving designers to wonder where they can show their magic, as Heilmer points out: “Our task will be to make a MINI recognizable as a MINI, even if at some point in the future our roads will be dominated by autonomous rectangular boxes. I’m in no doubt that our focus in the future will shift. We will no longer be creating just cars, but experiences. MINI will be recognizable by the experience and by an honest concept which will continue to excite and stand apart from the crowd.”

Yet another interesting insight into what goes on behind closed doors, when discussing the future. One thing is for certain, MINI is well on its way to becoming a purely electric brand and I, for one, think this change fits the brand perfectly, as it has been from the get go the perfect model to use around busy city streets. If you’re interested in reading the full interview, you can do so here.