The strongest statement by any company at the Geneva motor show has been made by one which isn’t even there.
By skipping Geneva MINI is underlining that it’s the holy grail for car companies – a generic lifestyle brand rather than merely a car brand.
Yes, it will still appear at motor shows, but they will largely be those held in the most cosmopolitan centres, like New York, not the ones in corporate and financial centres like Geneva.
And of course it will increasingly put itself in non-automotive environments, where fashion and technology coalesce, where other lifestyle brands are present, and where people go to consume and experience rather than go from stand to stand in an exhibition hall.
MINI has moved outside the constraining parameters of everyday carmakers, and in that sense it mirrors its fellow BMW group unit, Rolls-Royce. Where that great brand is the pinnacle of luxury personalisation, MINI has become the pinnacle of popular personalisation.
It’s something we all engage with on a daily basis without even registering it – every smartphone is highly personalised, not so much by covers and wallpapers as through the apps we choose. MINI knows this: the car of the future will be personalised through use of technology, not just paint and trim.
Other brands, from Volvo to DS, claim lifestyle status, but these are the ones which have been forced to reinvent themselves. The rest pay lip service or remain wedded to the same old formula, MINI’s parent BMW brand included.
In an era when retail is being transformed by digital, and with the consumption of personal mobility by young and urban populations likely to change radically, MINI is showing the mainstream car brands the way to go.