Mini sales reached an all-time high in 2015, which is good news and bad news. Records are great but the natural question is whether the BMW Group subsidiary can push volume even higher. Mini has stopped trying to expand into an array of niches in search of new customers. Instead it has focused on offering five core models, which the UK brand calls its "superheroes." Four of the models are set. The open question is what Mini will offer as its fifth superhero. Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW Group's board member for Mini, knows that adding a sedan would boost volume but could hurt the small-car brand's image. He recently discussed Mini's options with Automotive News Europe Editor Luca Ciferri and Correspondent Christiaan Hetzner.
Is Mini considering adding a compact sedan to its lineup?
If you look at the global industry and ask me which segment is the most interesting on a volume basis, it is clearly the compact sedan. But does a compact sedan fit the Mini brand? I don't think so.
Are you ruling out a compact sedan?
I can't rule it out completely because we are running a business here, and from that point of view it's an interesting segment. But from a brand perspective, I just don't see a fit. I can't envision a sedan that could come close to something that is authentically Mini.
Did Mini prepare a number of proposals for a sedan?
It would be negligent of us not to have looked at this. But I've yet to see anything that convinces me this can be a real Mini.
Experts say that offering a product that doesn't fit the brand is risky regardless of the short-term growth potential. What do you think?
I fully agree with those experts.
Would you agree the Superleggera roadster concept would perfectly fit the Mini brand?
The Superleggera is a perfect fit, but we have to look at the business side, as well as the brand side – it's always a balance. As I've said, a sedan would make plenty of sense from a business perspective, but it makes no sense from a brand perspective. The Superleggera is the other extreme. It would be perfect for the brand, but it's really tough to make the business case work because we know that the roadster segment is small.