The Mini John Cooper Works concept revealed at the North American International Auto Show on Monday. )
Although the bulldog-cute Mini line of cars, two- and four-door front- and four-wheel-drivers is restyled for 2014 to accommodate larger seats and cargo areas, the company doesn’t want to give the impression that cute is the sole reason for its success.
Mini, a division of BMW Group, finished 2013 with a record 305,000 global sales, said Peter Schwarzenbauer, of BMW Group’s board of management. Mini would prefer the image of its cars be “extremely sporty”, especially in the U.S. where it sold more than 66,000 cars last year. “Ten years ago this was unthinkable in a compact car brand,” said Schwarzenbauer.
To drive the sporty point home, Mini introduced a concept of its John Cooper Works versions, named after the famed race car tuner that brought racing victories to the original Mini Coopers in the 1960s. The concept features special air ducting, aerodynamic side sills and rear apron, 18-inch light alloy wheels, sports brake and exhaust, and a dose of race track development.
This ultimate sporting Mini shows that the cars might be more roomy, comfortable and frugal with fuel, but they are not being dulled down. The hot-rod John Cooper Works models sold 2,500 in the U.S. last year.
Jochen Goller, senior vice president of Mini in charge of sales and product management, said Monday afternoon at the Detroit auto show, “2014 will be very exciting for Mini, we have more power, more efficiency, but we will keep our famous ‘go-kart’ handling.”
Other ways Mini promotes the performance of its compact cars is through international rallying — right now a Mini is holding the first two positions in the famed Dakar rally, this year being held in South America. It also runs an adult performance and racing school from June to October at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said Nathalie Bauters, Mini communications manager in the U.S.