Oh my, Mini, how your stable has grown

With cheek and irreverence, the new Mini launched a decade ago in Canada.

Setting the bar in 2002, the Mini Cooper Hatch hung from the side of a Toronto building trailed by tire tracks in the shape of the Union Jack.

No one knew if the car would find favour, but BMW’s Mini brand is still here, and the auto-maker continues to push the Mini envelope with a broad range of products.

When BMW turned its attention to the Mini brand, there wasn’t really a compact car that could be called “premium.” In the early 2000s, there were plenty of premium cars, and a lot of com-pact cars, but, according to BMW, there wasn’t a premium compact car.

“Mini launched in 2002 with one model: The Mini Hatch,” says Mini Canada director Adam Shaver. “Today, there are six different models, and these new products allow people to grow with the brand.”

Those six models include the Hatch, Clubman, Convertible, Countryman, Coupe and Road-ster. Each model is unmistakably a Mini – no matter how you look at the vehicles, the inherent Mini DNA is present.

How much of the original 1959 Sir Alec Issigonis Mini design is embedded in that DNA could be questioned. But Shaver is adamant.

“Mini as a brand of the BMW Group has definitely maintained the character and personality of the original Mini,” he says. “It’s what continues to make the brand so successful. It’s unique. It really stands out. It’s iconic. A Mini isn’t just another car; it’s part of the family.

“While we have modernized Mini and are offering new model variants, every Mini is still just that: a Mini. You can see its genes from any angle, and you can certainly feel it in how it handles.”

Shaver says it is those personality traits that have allowed Mini to create a strong Canadian following over the past decade.

“People are actively engaged with this brand and want to be a part of it,” he says.

One of those folks is Calgarian Trevor Zaharichuk, a founding member of the Mini Club of Calgary. When asked about a club for a car that has not been around that long, Zaharichuk laughs, and says it is just part of the charm of the Mini.

“There are a lot of active Mini clubs and gatherings,” he says, and adds, “I’m not sure that could be said about other cars – I mean, you don’t hear about the Honda Fit club. Maybe there is one, but the car doesn’t have the following the Mini has.”

Zaharichuk’s family (including his wife and two young children, ages eight and nine) has three Minis, and no other cars.

One is a classic 1995 model, while the other two are new – there is a 2005 Mini Convertible and a 2008 Clubman.

Zaharichuk was driving a GMC Yukon when he sold it and bought his first Mini Hatch in 2005.

“Gas was approaching a dollar a litre back then, and it cost me about $10 a day to commute,” Za-harichuk says. “I think I just about paid for my Mini in the savings on fuel.”

Economy was not the only reason he chose a Mini.

“The Mini just has more style and personality than your standard grey sedan,” Zaharichuk says. “And they’re very driveable; a Mini handles like a street legal go-kart.

“I’m a whitewater kayaker, and the Clubman hauls boats and bikes, we can make it work and the cars have always met our needs.”

Andrew Scott is the Mini operations manager for the Western Region, Canada, and he says Za-harichuk is a pretty typical Mini owner.

“The Mini demographic are people who are unique, fun, and individualistic,” Scott says.

“We refer to them as fanatics, and the cars bring out the passion – people who own them, love them, and the Mini is more than just a transportation de-vice.”

The Mini’s rollout 10 years ago was in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Calgary did not get a store until 2004, when the Di-lawri Automotive Group opened Mini Crowfoot alongside BMW Gallery in the city’s northwest.

Western region operations manager Scott says in 2012 the dealership is on track to sell 220 new cars and 70 pre-owned. Year to date Mini Crowfoot has sold 100 per cent more cars than they sold during the same period in 2011.

“The evolution of the Mini has helped in the Calgary market,” Scott says.

“The Countryman is doing extremely well at Crowfoot, and I think it’s because it’s a four door, all-wheel-drive car.”

Mini’s Adam Shaver adds: “One of the beautiful things about Mini is that there isn’t re-ally one single demographic that this brand appeals to.”

He adds that the cars are great for singles, young couples, and empty nesters.

“But now people with families can grow more easily with the brand, thanks to additional models like the Countryman.”

Of the decade that has passed, Shaver concludes: “More new models will continue to come to market, and the next 10 years are sure to offer more fun and ad-venture from this brand.”

What’s Next
April 14: Custom motorcycle unveiling and party at TJ’s Cycle Ltd., 5719 6th St. S.E., from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Shop owner Mark Blundell has crafted two new machines from parts and pieces from several different sources – the point is to be as creative in the build process as possible. Call 403-252-3030 for more information, or e-mail [email protected].

A Mini John Cooper Works Countryman All4 is displayed during a press day ahead of the 82nd Geneva Motor Show.
Photograph by: SEBASTIEN FEVAL, AFP/Getty Images