Car News

Publisher auto dealer management system

If it seems like everything is slowly turning into an SUV these days, it's because everything is slowly turning into an SUV. Mini, the one automaker still with some models in its lineup that are not SUVs, could soon gain a second SUV with the redesign of the next-generation Clubman, Autocar reports.

Mini design boss Oliver Heilmer indicated to Autocar that the Clubman—a six-door station wagon positioned above the similarly sized five-door hatchback—could move to an SUV bodystyle. But Heilmer did not say whether the Countryman would change, as well, to reflect the new positioning strategy, or whether the Clubman would be a larger model positioned above the Countryman.

The bigger question (pardon the pun) could be how the two SUV models could be repositioned to appeal to different buyers: The Countryman could focus on rugged, off-road features and adventure, while the Clubman could focus on more refined, luxury on-road features and cargo capacity. There is certainly room in the range to differentiate the two models and make them play different roles.

The move appears to be part of a greater effort to reorient the model range to better appeal to consumers, so not every model will be larger or more SUV-like.

For instance, the basic three-door hatch could actually become smaller on the outside.

"For future architecture, we’re having weekly discussions to improve interior space and reduce the car’s footprint," Heilmer told Autocar. "But it’s not solved yet. Maybe next year."


What's driving these changes? In the Clubman's case we can probably blame hatchback sales these days. Mini has had a fairly solid grip on hatch sales when it comes to the higher end of the price range. The problem, however, is most of Mini's range has been dependent on the luxury hatchback market in every given region. While 10 or 15 years ago the premium hatch market was a major force in Europe, this is not necessarily true anymore, and it's certainly not true in the U.S. Here hatchback sales have fallen dramatically over the past decade, shrinking to just a handful of models holding on to repeat buyers. That's an ever-shrinking audience, one pulled into the direction of compact and subcompact crossovers, some made by Mini parent company BMW in the case of the X2.

Another issue the Clubman has faced since becoming a six-door model is that it's too close in layout to the less-expensive five-door Mini Cooper hatchback, introduced in 2015. We suspected Mini would eventually be forced to differentiate the two models in a more meaningful way than barn doors for the Clubman, and the answer could be turning the Clubman into an SUV, as Heilmer hinted.

When it comes to the Mini Cooper, it will be interesting to see this model shrink in size when the next generation is introduced—but that's an indication that premium hatchback owners don't necessarily want larger hatchbacks. The Mini Cooper had grown noticeably with the last redesign, introduced in 2014, and even though it was praised in reviews the growth in exterior size has turned some Mini fans cold.