FRANKFURT -- Mini is banking that the new Clubman wagon will set itself apart from compact segment competitors because it's different -- and emotional, said the brand's global chief.
"If you look at this compact premium segment, most cars are very functional but boring," said Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW AG board member in charge of Mini and Rolls-Royce. "Now we are bringing a car that is very emotional, and we brought all of the Mini DNA."
The four-door Clubman unveiled here sheds a quirky door design and grows 12 inches in length -- pushing the wagon into the compact segment. It's the first time Mini will compete with compact cars such as the Mercedes-Benz CLA and Audi A3.
The Clubman is as big as a Mini should get, said Schwarzenbauer. "Then it is hard to explain Mini."
The Clubman will be one of Mini's "superhero" cars, as Schwarzenbauer calls the five models going forward.
Three models have been ditched -- the Paceman, Roadster and Coupe. The four known "superhero" cars are the Mini Cooper hardtop, the convertible, the Clubman and the Countryman crossover.
"I thought that Mini should not follow the same trend as the rest of the industry with niche after niche. All the big players have cars in every niche and I thought this would not be right for Mini," Schwarzenbauer said. "We consciously took the advantage of not developing 10 or 12 cars but five superheroes that should have different characters."
The Superleggera roadster concept has long been rumored as the fifth Mini model and it has received accolades. Schwarzenbauer doesn't want to say if it will go into production, noting that the roadster segment is small and diminishing and "it is a different project and it is not financially an easy one."
But he said: "I haven't given up on it."
Mini will roll out one new model annually for the next few years, said Schwarzenbauer. The Clubman goes on sale in January. A redesigned Countryman is expected about a year later.
The Countryman is unlikely to get substantially bigger because, unlike the Clubman, buyers "haven't said they need more space" or asked for a larger crossover, he said.
Schwarzenbauer said lower gasoline prices and the move toward larger vehicles in the U.S. haven't affected Mini sales. Through August, Mini's U.S. sales were up 16 percent to 40,560. Mini executives have said the brand is expected to set another sales record this year.