Mini to reduce lineup to 5 'Superhero' cars

Mini plans to offer an electric vehicle "soon" and the car could be modeled on the Superleggera concept, pictured, showcased at the Paris Motor Show. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

UPDATED: 11/26/14 12:17 pm ET - adds details

MUNICH -- BMW AG has decided that Mini has gotten too big and will shrink the compact brand's lineup to five models from eight.

The move reverses course after Mini rolled out a series of quirky derivatives like the coupe and roadster two-seaters in recent years. While that strategy sustained sales growth, it added cost and complexity.

Over the long term, Mini will now focus on "superhero" vehicles including the three- and five-door versions of the basic hatchback, the Countryman crossover and the Clubman wagon, which will be revamped next year, Peter Schwarzenbauer, the brand's chief said.

"Like a superhero, each of these cars has its own personality and unique capabilities," said Schwarzenbauer in a speech prepared for an event near BMW's Munich headquarters. "It is important to find the right balance between growth, on the one hand, and profitability, on the other."

BMW re-introduced Mini as an upscale compact car in 2001 to target the increasing ranks of urban consumers. Since then, there's been a steady stream of trendy city cars like the Audi A1, Fiat 500 and Nissan Juke, putting pressure on Mini to differentiate itself.

"Mini now faces competition in areas where it previously stood alone," said Schwarzenbauer, who took charge of Mini last year after previously heading sales at Audi.

Three to four current models will retain their place in the brand’s lineup, which now includes the two-door Paceman crossover and a convertible. Schwarzenbauer didn’t say which Mini models will be cut and didn’t give a timeframe.

Electric Mini

It's also not all backpedaling. Mini will offer an electric vehicle "soon," the BMW management-board member said.

The car could be modeled on the Superleggera concept showcased at the Paris Motor Show in October.

Mini introduced the third-generation of its basic hatchback -- known now as the Hardtop in the U.S. -- in 2013.

Demand for the car will help the BMW unit match last year's sales record of about 305,000 vehicles. With the addition of the Clubman, Schwarzenbauer anticipates a "significant" increase in sales next year.

In addition to revamping its lineup, Mini is looking at more customization options and alternatives to sales through traditional dealers.

"The brand will continue to evolve over the coming years to ensure that we remain leading edge," he said. "We will take new and unexpected directions."

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