The new car market is on the brink of historic change, which has been added to the drama by the coronavirus pandemic. The head of Mini in Europe says that the brand he leads is well-positioned to win in this new reality. This is what he does.
Mateusz Żuchowski, Autokult: Where did your presence in Poland come from now?
Pierre Jalady, head of the Mini brand in Europe: Poland is an important market for Mini throughout Europe. It is growing at an impressive rate. Last year, 2,105 cars of this brand were registered here, now we are preparing for increased results. We plan to open about four new small stores in Poland by the end of the year. A lot of exciting things are happening.
M.Ż .: Can it be understood that the role of Mini in the BMW Group is becoming more important?
PJ: Obviously. A clear, long-term strategy has been adopted for Mini, which will give the brand an important position in the European market. By 2030, Mini will be an all-electric brand.
M.Ż .: Is this strengthening of Mini’s position due to internal factors (company strategy) or external factors (the growing role of mobility in large gatherings)?
PJ: We are seeing several market trends that are keeping Mini sales up. You must remember that Mini has a unique position in the car market, it is associated as a lifestyle brand. More and more people are interested in realizing the lifestyle that Mini promotes.
During the coronavirus pandemic, we noticed an important trend for us: residents of large European cities now prefer private transport instead of using public transport. They want to have their own “Bubble”, their own space that they don’t share with anyone. From the point of view of this situation, Mini’s potential is great, as it is a brand with a large position among individual customers. At the same time, I have to consider the increasing sales of Small Cars to fleet customers. During my visit to Poland, for example, a contract was signed for the delivery of 30 copies to the ship of a Polish company. And there will be more and more deals.
Our position in the fleet market will be strengthened with electric models. Currently, we have a plug-in (Mini Countryman) and an electric hybrid Mini Cooper SE. Many companies across Europe want to build their ships on it now. We are developing a network of dealers in Poland, among other things, to be close to customers also in this market. The combination of electric drive, designer look and new showrooms gives Mini the driving force behind the brand’s development in Poland.
M.Ż .: Indeed, Mini has a very clearly defined and understandable image. There are few brands that evoke such unmistakable associations. I see it as an advantage, but also a challenge, because this character sets clear boundaries for the brand, in terms of the appearance of the products offered, as well as their size and position. The key to further development will be to push these boundaries.
PJ: Mini will definitely remain a producer of city cars. It will remain in the compact segment, especially in segments A and B. There is still a lot to achieve in these. In many European countries, whether due to emission standards or even changing social standards, customers are increasingly turning to smaller cars. Mini wants to take such customers.
What is Mini’s growth potential? We believe there is room for one model smaller than the one currently offered and for one larger. The latter will appear on the market at any time. So we will have something smaller, something bigger, but the concept of what constitutes the heart of our offering will also change. Our goal is to achieve a very large position in the A and B sections.
M.Ż .: Mini has already tried to do it, but it failed. In my opinion, brand management made several strategic mistakes. Several types blurred his image, others turned out to be completely unnecessary. A club member he could have achieved a strong position in the segment of popular compacts similar to the Volkswagen Golf, he could have fought it in size and price, but he never did. Several examples – how PacmanCoupe or Roadster – it didn’t get any.
PJ: New brands that make brands grow are needed. When the word Mini comes to mind, hatchback comes to mind. The best-selling model on the Polish market, however, is our largest model, the Countryman crossover. Putting it into production was a difficult but very right decision. We believe that after the Countrymanie, a slightly bigger car than the ones we have offered before, we can now allow ourselves to introduce another, bigger model to our portfolio.
However, it is important to us that – regardless of size – the final product is associated with the Mini brand. If someone looked at a new model and thought: “but a wonderful car, I don’t know what it could be”, then I would say about a mistake and a failure.
M.Ż .: Can a small car be such a product? You presented a concept design at the IAA in September In the city. It seemed that the body type that was now completely forgotten, was replaced by crossovers.
PJ: That’s why we develop prototypes to test customer feedback. The goal of the Urbanaut project is to remind what Mini has been since its launch in 1959. It is a brand that, like no other, uses the external dimensions of the car to provide a high level of interior space. Urbanaut shows what this concept will look like in 2021. Will it go into series production? I don’t know, although such a car makes sense. Currently, we are investigating whether it would meet enough market interest. Regardless of the results of this study, Mini must, however, explore such a direction of development.
M.Ż .: The original Mini from 1959 achieved success not only for the amazing use of space, but also for the pleasant simplicity. It paid off not only in a larger cabin space, but also in a lower price, more durability and many other advantages. This talent of great simplicity is what the Mini has lost in my opinion. Now French car manufacturers are at the forefront. Renault Twizy was such a model for several years, now it is complete Citroen Ami.
PJ: In terms of Mini, we want to focus on the development in the compact segment, which is an important part of the European premium market.
M.Ż .: The future of Mini is electric mobility. Here, in my opinion, you slept too. The first electric model of the brand, Cooper SE, only entered the market last year – quite late for a brand focused on urban mobility. In addition, this model no longer supports the latest z storage BMW i3which has been in production since 2013.
PJ: Currently, every fourth three-door hatchback sold in Poland is electric. This is a higher result than the European Union average, where every fifth three-door hatchback has such a car. Electric storage in this section is therefore not the track of the future. It’s already happening. And it happened very quickly. We will respond to this trend more fully with the launch of the next generation of Mini. We do not work on one electric model, but on electric versions of all our models in the range.
There are two ways to create an electric version of a car. The first mode is the most modern technology, a large battery and driving power in the seat. However, we preferred to go for the scientific method of a small battery that can be charged quickly, and which provides a real range of around 230 km. This is a very satisfactory result for the needs of getting around the city, and allows you to offer an electric car to customers on favorable financial terms.
M.Ż .: Will the ranks of electric vehicles increase?
PJ: Not always, because it’s not always necessary. A simple rule can be adopted: the bigger the car, the bigger it should be. At the moment, we think that the range of 250 km for an urban hatchback is more than enough. We carefully monitor the ways in which our customers use their cars and the statistics we keep show that Mini customers drive an average of 30 kilometers a day. In one night, you can charge your car for a whole week of city driving. But in the case of models like Mwananchi, which are also often used outside the city, we will strive for a longer range, more than 300 km.
M.Ż .: What about models with sporty elegance? After all, Mini advertises itself for the fun of driving a go-kart, it has a whole line of extreme John Cooper Works models. A very weak electric drive with a relatively simple battery doesn’t sound like something Mini could replace the hot hatch electric part with… Or at least maintain the parameters of the current models.
PJ: Achieving satisfactory acceleration results with the help of an electric vehicle is not difficult. But the thrill of driving is more than just acceleration. Concept Mini Electric Pacesetter it shows what we have to offer in this field. It’s a car that’s electric, but it’s characterized by high performance and that go-kart fun you mentioned. We are supported by the very design of the electric car, where the center of gravity is very low thanks to the flat battery placed under the cabin.
M.Ż .: At the moment we are still in a transition phase; The European Union currently favors plug-in hybrids. What is their role in the micro-strategy? What are their real interests among customers?
PJ: In some EU countries, already every third Citizen sold is a plug-in hybrid, so it’s a very important element of our drive range. The plug-in section in Mini is always growing. Is it enough for plug-ins to be the future of the automotive industry? I don’t know this, because I predict that as electric cars become more popular, the role of plug-ins will decrease. But for now, a plug-in as a transition driver is a very good solution. It allows customers to get to know the electric car and love it. We are seeing a trend where, after trying a plug-in hybrid, customers want their next car to be fully electric. And I understand them.
M.Ż .: The experience of many countries shows, however, that the solution that is most effective in increasing the popularity of electric vehicles is a direct subsidy for their purchase.
PJ: Yes, and the program “My electrician“, which has been working in Poland since July, is already bringing real results, even if it is limited to individual customers at the moment. As a manufacturer, we expect such a solution, because we believe that everyone has a role to play. commitment to switch to electricity of electronics: car manufacturers, the European Union, national governments and municipalities: A new ecosystem for electric vehicles can only be built together through a strategy that includes subsidies, charging infrastructure and special preferences for electric vehicles.
Such cooperation between car manufacturers and officials can work, as seen in Norway. 10 years ago, the country’s leaders thought that it would end the sale of gasoline cars by 2025. Already now, that is 6 years after this decision, 75 percent. New cars sold in Norway have only electric drives, and several percent or more they are hybrids. The share of cars with internal combustion engines has decreased to more than 10% in a very short time. It was possible, however, not only by introducing restrictions, but also by providing tangible benefits to customers who choose an electric car.