Press Report : MINI rules out the opening a UK-based Design Studio

Mark Tisshaw, News Reporter, Autocar, 24th September, 2010

Gert Hildebrand, MINI’s Design Director, has ruled out the possibility of opening a Design Studio in Britain. Hilderbrand, who was speaking to Autocar at a MINI Design event in London last night,  said that a UK MINI Design Studio “wouldn’t happen” as it would be too far away from MINI’s Engineering Team.

BMW set up a MINI Design Studio in 2001 at its Munich headquarters in close proximity to MINI’s Engineering Department. There have often been calls for MINI to expand its Design Team into Britain to help offer a more traditional perspective on MINI design, but Hilderbrand – a fan of classic Minis and British culture in general – has dashed hopes of such a facility being created.

“We won’t move away from Munich as we need to be close to Engineering,” he said, “and there’s no engineering capability in England. I love England but it (a UK-based MINI Design Studio) is not going to happen.”

We won’t move away from Munich as we need to be close to Engineering,” he said, “and there’s no engineering capability in England. I love England but it (a UK-based MINI Design Studio) is not going to happen.” Gert Hildebrand, Design Director, MINI

Last night’s event in London included the public reveal of the firm’s three MINI Scooter E design concepts for the Paris Motor Show. Two of the trio will make it to Paris – in MINI E and British Racing Green liveries – but the London-inspired Mod-era scooter was only created for the event.

Hildebrand said the scooters’ main purpose was to “bring younger people to the MINI brand” and was one aspect of future urban mobility the firm was looking at. “If people buy these then they get used to the brand and can progress through the MINI range into cars,” he said.

Hildebrand explained the idea of a MINI scooter had been discussed for the past six years and the firm now felt it was the right time to showcase the concepts as pressure is on manufacturers to offer future zero-emission, urban mobility solutions.

MINI has no history of scooters but Britain does – London does – and initial reaction tonight will also shape how we move the project forward. We need to have ideas going forward; MINI always needs to be small yet premium and these scooters showcase this.” Adrian van Hooydonk, Design Director, BMW Group

BMW Group’s Design Director, Adrian van Hooydonk, told Autocar that there was a desire within the company to build the scooters and it would test public reaction to them at the Paris Motor Show.

“We will find a way to build them should there be enough demand,” he said. “MINI has no history of scooters but Britain does – London does – and initial reaction tonight will also shape how we move the project forward. We need to have ideas going forward; MINI always needs to be small yet premium and these scooters showcase this. We need ideas for zero-emission future mobility – you can’t go where you want to all the time even with a car.”

Van Hooydonk also dismissed suggestions that the scooters could be a MINI too far. “I had an original MINI and know what the brand is about,” he said. “This is not what MINI has done before but it is still a MINI for the urban environment. It’s fun and emotional.”

[Source: Autocar]

Clive Goldthorp


  1. I think this is sensible – we should all concentrate on what we are good at. The Germans are far better at car design than us Brits and every effort should be made to ensure that the development of future MINIs is closely integrated with the BMW brand expertise.

  2. Just to qualify my last comment, the fact that the multi-national design team is based in Germany does not reduce the Britishness of this brand, it merely ensures its long term future by avoiding the horrendous blind alleys that British design has take us down in the past – think Allegro, Maxi and Viva.

  3. Try telling Short Bros., Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, etc. that there’s no engineering capability in England. Doesn’t anybody in car land speak sense?

  4. @Ianto
    You think the Isetta is an aesthetic masterpiece?? Check out the badge on that one.

    Not good at design – eh? Exactly what is the Bini design based on? A BRITISH design that lasted 41 years!!! It’s German arrogance as per – “we can do anything better than you and nobody can tell us otherwise.”

    There’s a big chip on the shoulder there – they will never accept Brits connected to the Mini/Bini can do stuff better than them. That is why they pursue litigation against other businesses using the Mini name in their titles – arrogance, absolutely nothing to do with “protecting the heritage” which is their usual excuse for heavy-handed tactics. They are claiming the credit for a brand they did nothing to create.

    Thank you, Andrew, at least 3 British companies that multi-nationals and Governments all over the planet buy components and machinery from that are critical to their business. Don’t hear of many German companies supplying engines to Boeing and weapons systems for fighter planes – I don’t think I need to go on.

    Oh, and as for maintaining the Britishness of the brand – the suicide door on the Bini Clubman?

  5. @Ianto
    Ianto, my last comment was not directed at you personally, although it was worded as a reply, and I certainly intended to cause no offence to anyone and apologise if I did.

    I just felt, as Andrew did, that comments appear to have been made about engineering capacity in England that were wide of the mark. I do not have a problem with MINI having their Design Studio in Munich, but do not think it was fair to imply that a similar facility in Britain was discounted due to lack of expertise in the UK, as the highlighted comments seem to suggest.

    There is a lot of comment made about being aware of the Britishness of MINI/Mini and maintaining the heritage, but the Clubman rear door feature was not adapted for the UK market which I am sure it could have been fairly easily (I am happy to be corrected if someone can explain it). Some people felt that the door was practically unusable on RHD cars when parked in busy streets and I think it’s little things like that that irk the ‘traditional’ Mini fans who see it as a British icon and see the UK as its primary market – rightly or wrongly.

    Having read Andrew Garfield’s book last year, I know that Cowley was chosen for MINI due to the excellent track record of the workforce in terms of skill, ability and general industrial relations and that was a credit to that particular factory (and was Longbridge’s loss). However, there was a bit of a raw nerve among the classic Mini fraternity about how MINI were thought to be treating some businesses using “Mini” in their name – a situation that has improved considerably in recent years andwhich is most welcome. It was done with the best of intentions but was taken the wrong way and caused a bit of mistrust.

    The scooter idea is novel and, hopefully, the comments made will mean that, if it is released, it isn’t overly branded as MINI as this would really be taking the name away from its core identity. I have no doubt it would be a quality product and would sell well – in today’s financial climate economic commuting is more and more sought after.

    I’ll be keeping a watchful eye on this new development.

  6. @Paul T
    No offence taken.

    Andrew Garfield’s book is very good and I would recommend it to any of the readers of this website.

    I am quite excited about the scooter and hope that this project comes to fruition.

  7. @Ianto
    One thing that Andrew Garfield’s book did for me was change my perception of the MINI. I, like other classic Mini owners, had felt that the new car was too far removed from the old one.

    However, on reading the book, it was great to read the stories from various generations of the same families that had worked on the development of the original Mini at Cowley in the 1950s and the new MINI in the 1990s and their genuine pride in the two cars. It made me realise that the connection between the two cars was more than just bonnet-badge-deep and the workers’ pride in being involved shone through – it was ‘their’ car on both counts and you could certainly detect an internal competitiveness with Longbridge!

    I am now seriously considering buying a MINI – before reading that book I wouldn’t have even considered it due to (now misguided) inverted snobbery!

  8. @Paul T
    I agree, this book completely changed my perspective too. It is not just a social commentary but a great story in which the two story arcs are deftly linked.

  9. I’m not going to go into how MINI won’t lose its Britishness because I don’t believe it is British in any way and I don’t want to start that debate again.

    However, to say that the Germans do design better than the Brits is madness. BMW’s design has been, at best, boring and, at worst, down right ugly. BMW haven’t made a good-looking car for years… if at all.

    Yes, the Brits have had their low points, for example, the Allegro and Maxi. However, try and find anything from Germany that even comes close to, for example, the Jaguar E-Type and you’ll be looking for a very long time.

    British car design is amazing when we are allowed to just get on with it. Moving closer to today, park an XF next to a 5 Series and it soon becomes clear who has the upper hand in terms of design. I grant you that BMW knows a thing or two about engineering a car – given its budgets I’m not surprised that it does… However, the fact that the XF (I’m just using that car as an example) totally beat the old 5 Series on every level and is almost as good as the current 5 Series is amazing considering its development budget wouldn’t pay for the paper used to design the 5 Series!

    The Germans have made some beautiful cars in their time even if some have been little clinical. Don’t get me wrong, the Audi Quattro is a stunning car but we are just as good as well, if not miles better. No one can look at a Countryman and say that’s a design masterpiece like they can when they see the new Evoque.

  10. @Andrew McCheyne
    I’m not sure if the first Quattro was designed by someone from UK, but it certainly drew its inspiration from the UK.

    By coincidence, while waiting for my TF to have a sensor replaced, I picked up a book in the Waiting Room called “Mad Cars” which was written by the same author as the “Crap Cars” mini-book. “Mad Cars” contains details of a car called the GKN FFF100 which was built in Coventry in 1973.

    This car had a fair number of innovative features (4wd, ABS plus many others) which were, according to the author, “pirated” by Audi for the first Quattro. He certainly had no doubt that Audi were a bit cheeky and reaped the benefits of the GKN’s before-its-time features.

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