At the 2023 Goodwood Festival of Speed, BMWBLOG got to chat with Stefanie Wurst, Head of MINI, about the brand’s future, its navigating digitalization, a direct-to-customer sales model, and more. The conversation gave us an interesting glance at where the brand points toward 2030 when it becomes all-electric. But until then, MINI still has a few surprises in store for us, including a MINI John Cooper Works 1TO6 limited edition which we drove while in England.

The New Electric MINI Family

“We are renewing the entire portfolio,” Wurst begins. “Next year and the year after, every model will be renewed, and we’ll call it the new MINI family. Then, every body type will be available as an electric car or with an electric drivetrain.” Interesting news, but not surprising for a brand that lends itself quite well to electrification. She says that the JCW versions of the vehicle aren’t immune to electrification, either. Of course, this is all part of the strategy to go all-electric by 2030. In Europe, Wurst expects electric versions of the MINI lineup to outsell their combustion-powered counterparts “at one point in time, which is not so far away from now. By then, the whole portfolio will be 50% electrified, and that’s true for every variant.”

You can rest assured that the new MINI family will stay true to its name. Or, at least, it won’t wander any further away from its roots. “Small cars have high relevance,” Wurst says. “And we all don’t know where regulation is going to be. Maybe at one point in time, small cars will get a benefit for the city.” Not a completely outrageous thought, considering cities like Paris are already charging SUVs more to park. The size “caters well to the space restrictions we have, especially in Europe and Asia,” she says.

Digitalization and Self-Driving MINIs

Based on what she’s heard from dealers, customers, and journalists, Wurst thinks the electric MINI is a no-brainer. Their target buyer loves MINI because it’s practical for an urban environment, and they care about sustainability. Between their buyers at home and digitalization in China (leaps and bounds ahead of elsewhere, she says), they were required to “dial it up when it comes toward digitalization.” What does that mean? “What you have in the car and how the car talks to the app, and also the avatar and digital playfulness we show in the car. It caters to an urban and global community.”

When it comes to autonomous driving, Wurst isn’t sure there’s a huge business case. Will we see self-driving MINI vehicles any time soon? “Well, I think, from a brand perspective, it’s probably less relevant than for BMW as we have an urban heritage and intend to stay like that,” she offers. But she is still confident bringing it to her clients if there is a vocal outcry. “I think it’s a possibility that we introduce it, as well. But it’s not a priority from a brand perspective.” Looks like MINIs will be staying at least a little bit analog for a long time to come.

No More MINI Dealerships? Not Quite

When asked about direct-to-client sales in some markets (excluding the U.S.), Wurst is a fan. “I think it’s a better customer experience in the end,” she says. The goal is to provide a MINI-bespoke, personal way of getting customers their cars. The end goal is to have an excellent customer experience. The MINI boss sees the dealership model becoming more of an ‘experience center.’ But she knows that a fully online buying experience is far away. “The amount of automotive deals that are entirely done online is really small for every brand,” she reports, saying that people still want to get a feel for who they’re doing business with, take a test drive, and enjoy a personal experience. “Together, with our dealer body, we strive to have a better customer experience in the end. Or, with a new model.”

It’s Not All About Electric MINIs

At this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, MINI brought out an exciting limited edition JCW. Dubbed the MINI John Cooper Works 1TO6, this 999 units production run brings a six-speed manual to customers, along with a special paint job. While manual transmission options are available in certain markets for the JCW, customers in markets like Germany can only access this option through a special edition. Also, MINI’s portfolio will continue to offer a range of drivetrain choices for the upcoming years, and potentially some more special editions manual MINIs.

The MINI Aceman: From China With Love?

When asked about the possibility of the new Aceman coming to Europe while being assembled in China, Stefanie didn’t rule it out. “I think the Aceman is like a true MINI interpreted in a new and spicy way,” she first states. “Wherever it is produced is not a big topic. Also, in Garching, we haven’t specifically talked about it. But as long as it’s perceived like a true part of the MINI family, the question of where it is produced is often of secondary importance.” So, while that doesn’t necessarily sound like it’s a definite no, Wurst also states that MINI has a “huge production going on in Oxford.”

Sustainability And Circularity In the World Of MINI

“We are part of the BMW Group story, but we have our own stories to tell [when it comes to sustainability],” Wurst tells us. “We have vegan interiors already, knitted materials, and more, yet even more important, is to be creative with new materials,” Wurst added. “People automatically think that MINI must deliver because it’s smaller. It’s not necessarily the case because of size, but it helps us to be more credible that way. Furthermore, what’s actually important is also materials and how many materials are basically glued together, composed together. And if you reduce that amount, it’s much easier to recycle and reclaim materials. So our future charismatic simplicity is actually also sustainable,” Wurst added.