Goodwood 2016: BMW and Mini- the conceptual stretching of brands?

There didn’t seem to be as many concept cars at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this year as there usually are, but those which did appear are worth a bit of discussion.
The two I present to you here are both from the fevered imagination of BMW, one being displayed in a courtyard of Goodwood House, amidst the German marque’s centenary celebrations, the other on show centrally in the MINI pavilion elsewhere on site.
I know that neither of them are new, but it’s the first time I’ve seen them in the flesh and both concepts gave me mixed emotions. But what do you think?

The BMW iVison Future Interaction is a concept designed to explore the way that the driver and his co-pilot interact with the car. It thinks forwards to a time perhaps not too far from our own where the controls we take for granted today become auxiliary, with the car being generally able to look after itself.
Autonomy plays a big part in the thinking behind this concept, which is far more properly described here. Needless to say, it’s intended as more of a wheeled intellectual hypothesis than a technology demonstrator.
The model is based on the already existing i8 Spyder concept, but shorn of its butterfly doors and with a few extra styling tweaks. Of course, the primary reason for the doorlessness was to better showcase the interior, which is dominated by the 21-inch panoramic display, the three-dimensional instrument cluster and the HID. Theoretical technology would include gesture-control and seats that change in geometry for greater relaxation when the car is driving in its autonomous mode.
But, yes, it’s got no doors. Let’s think about that for a second.
Think back to historic BMW products that may be a mystery to the younger generation. Cars which existed and were sensational way before the E46 M3 which seems to be the poster child for classic BMW enthusiasts born after 1990.
It may well have been deliberate; it can’t have been a mere coincidence, that the doorless i8 Spyder with its high sill line rather recalls the BMW Z1 with its drop-down doors.
The Z3 always seemed a rather sober follow-up to the Z1, something like this would be a rather arresting proposition.
Or, if we were to push our interpretations of this open-sided shape to extremes, how about an updated GP Beach Buggy? What a car for BMW to slap the Blue and White propeller on the nose of.
Now it’s the turn of the MINI Concept Superleggera. On their website, MINI say:
“The MINI SuperleggeraTM Vision showcases traditional MINI design on a classic Speedster bonnet, with the iconic round headlights and hexagonal grille. Plating on the grille gives it sporting character, while three-dimensional bonnet stripes emboss the hood, leading to polished aluminium accents. A wide stance and muscular wheel arches contrast against sleek aluminium mirrors and rims, finished off in eye-catching Como Blue paint.”
Wait a cotton-pickin’ second there.
OK, so you’ve got your round headlights and your still somewhat hexagonal grille, maybe your centrally mounted instrumentation. That’s it. In honestly that’s all there is here in terms of traditional MINI design. And that’s fine. I’m all about being progressive.
BMW, with this concept, are testing the water to gauge public reception of this kind of car. They’re not threatening to build it or something, but there would be no sense in such a concept if the thought hadn’t crossed their mind once or twice. And I understand their use of the MINI brand to do it.
BMW have got a very specific brand image, and the the iVision Future Interraction concept above highlights the furthest they’ve yet taken the thinking behind the i8s strand of that corporate identity. It’s the absolute opposite of the delicate, feminine curves of the MINI Superleggera.
If BMW were to launch a small sports-car (and not a bloody Mini coupé) with delecate, pretty bodywork it could never be launched as a BMW as that would be an unacceptably inconsistant U-Turn from a brand who have been quietly honing their identity for years.
But  I still think it’s a misuse of the MINI name. As I said, there are only three real traditionally MINI styling cues here, and the headlamps would look equally at home on a re-imagined Healey Frogeye Sprite. Hey, that’s a thought…..
My initial thought had been of a new Triumph sports car, a brand which BMW still owns the name to (The motorcycle company has been separate, I believe, for around seventy years). Or what about a Riley?
A tiny lightweight sports car could be just what we want from BMW but the use of the MINI brand just feels a little..lazy?
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016)

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  1. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    Maybe it’s lazy or maybe BMW just doesn’t understand it’s British brands, of which it still owns a few that it hasn’t used,( as you point out).
    Of course BMW might not understand any real concept of ‘Britishness’, but then, given the politics of the last weekend, it might be fairly clearly argued that no-one else does either.
    Someone has to use those tail-lights though.
    Make mine a new Triumph Spitfire.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      I don’t think that, other than some crusty old Brits, anyone remembers Riley as a car maker. And Triumph is slowly going the same way, so maybe they should forget about defunct British brands and launch it as a Dixi?.

  2. salguod Avatar

    I’ve never been a fan of the i8 and the iVision seems like little more than taking a Sawzall to the roof and unbolting the doors. Meh.
    The Superleggera, though, is perhaps not very Mini, but it is very cool.

  3. mad_science Avatar

    Brand only matters to help sell uninteresting cars. Think about it: kickass/beautiful/whatever vehicles sell just fine on their own, but it’s the mid-spec 528s that sell to “I just want a BMW” people.
    With that in mind, Mini shouldn’t hesitate to make a Miata-esque (ok, more like 90s FWD Carpri-esque) roadster. It’s cute, fun, and they’ll sell a billion of them.

  4. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    The Mini concept looks more Italian Barchetta from the rear 3/4 and Suzuki Cappuccino from the front and the only thing specifically English are the tail lights. The need to go for a more MG Midget look. The i8 concept looks like something Sbarro or RInspeed would do , an not in a complimentary way.

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