With the launch of its new Roadster model MINI is seeking to rejuvenate the struggling segment says U.S. brand boss Jim McDowell.
The Roadster and its sibling, the new MINI Coupe, were developed in tandem, but to appeal to very different segments of the population. And perhaps more importantly, they were developed to bring in buyers who might not have otherwise bought a MINI.
Speaking with AutoGuide at the Detroit Auto Show, McDowell explained how when research into the cars started several years back a trend became immediately obvious in respect to the open-top two-seat segment. “We were amazed at how much the market had contracted over the last 10 years,” he said. “In fact, it contracted almost as fast as the average price went up.”
A BMW Z3, which started at just $31,200 back in 2000, has now transformed into the Z4, with a sicker price of $48,650. The MINI roadster, however, will start at just above the $25,000 mark. Miata aside, “There has not been such an attractively priced roadster in a long, long time,” says McDowell.
Ignoring, rather obviously, the Mazda MX-5, McDowell does comment that there’s a certain equity to the Roadster being a European model. “I wouldn’t call MINI owners snobs,” he says quite frankly, instead stating that they simply appreciate the attention to detail and quality common to European vehicles. And yet the MINI offers another quality that pricey German machines can’t match.
True the Roadster is an oddity in the segment, as a front-driver rather than a rear-wheel drive machine, though McDowell has commented in the past that he doesn’t believe it matters what wheels power that car, so long as it’s fun to drive.
Along with the attractive $25,000 starting price, a MINI, says McDowell, is the sort of thing you can still drop your kid off at school in without looking like you’re showing off. “A MINI is always socially acceptable.”
Still, McDowell says the Roadster will draw people from many brands, particularly those top-down drivers that once existed and McDowell believes they still do. “With this car we will bring back dormant roadster drivers that have disappeared,” he declares.
The Roadster is the latest model to join the expanding MINI lineup, which now includes the Coupe, Countryman, Clubman, as well as the conventional MINI Cooper and its convertible counterpart.
GALLERY: 2012 MINI Roadster