Mini finds itself in an existential crisis — a small-car maker in an SUV world. Declining volumes, coupled with an anemic product pipeline, have the brand's U.S. retailers growing restless.
Mini's U.S. sales, which launched in 2002, peaked at 66,502 in 2013. The company declared that year that it would sell more than 100,000 vehicles per year here by 2020. The brand is expected to sell 36,000 vehicles in the U.S. this year, according to a lawsuit filed by the former chairman of the Mini dealer council.
Next year marks Mini's long overdue entry into the electric vehicle space.
The 2020 Mini Cooper SE, expected to arrive in U.S. stores in March, is powered by a 32.6-kilowatt-hour battery anticipated to have an EPA-estimated range of 114 miles. That could handicap the new entrant in the world of modern electrics, where 200-plus miles of range is considered table stakes.
But BMW has suggested that the Cooper SE could foreshadow the future of Mini.
"Electromobility is an excellent fit for our urban, progressive and open-minded customers," Peter Schwarzenbauer, the BMW Group board member formerly responsible for the Mini brand, told Automotive News Europe at the Geneva auto show in March. "To secure the long-term future of Mini, we will enable the range to be all-electric, should the customer prefer that."