MINI, Mini on the Wall, Which Is the Best Car Type of Them All?...

... is it the gas guzzling SUV, the comfy sedan or the toys'r'us micro cars? There’s no doubt the financial downturn changed the automotive industry but, beside these reports telling you about automakers pushed beyond their limits and forced to get on knees and beg for money, the economic recession also had a strong impact over us: it shaped the course of public opinion, raising questions about various aspects that have never been closely analyzed before. People who were looking to buy a car were extremely weak-willed when it came to choosing the vehicle that fits them the best, with attributes such as design and engine power among the most important features.

I mean, have a look at companies based in the United States. All those high-displacement engines that ate like a horse and sweated like a pig, with not even a single minor interest in protecting the environment and living above their owners’ income. This is exactly what happened to the Detroit 3 who saw their sales hitting the lowest believable limit until they said “Stop! We need to do something!” Well, the solution came exactly from their government who told US companies to learn the ropes of automotive markets from their European fellows, including here BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen.

Sure, these companies saw their profits going down too, but they’ve never begged for money, such a humiliating action that destroys one's image and may cause more harm than good.

So, which is that fifth element that made European automakers keep their sales as high as possible and rule the automotive industry? Well, some people say it’s the brand, others point to design, safety or next-gen technologies. But only a few of them actually noticed that European companies have always been interested in less powerful engines but providing enhanced fuel economy and very low CO2 emissions. And they even found a way to combine fuel efficiency with outstanding engine performance, which are basically two main attributes of today’s cars.

Let’s make a short history of the automotive industry over the last few months. General Motors went down. Chrysler went down, Ford went down too. Jaguar followed the same descending trend, SsangYong almost filed for bankruptcy. Volvo saw their truck sales lost in the desert, Hyundai and Kia delayed payments to managers, Fiat suspended production of several plants, MINI sales were increased in most emerging markets. Oh, be kind and rewind please. MINI sales were increased in most emerging markets. I beg your pardon?! Yup, that’s right, MINIs grew up despite the fact that demand for new cars melted down all around the world.

OK, so here we go, an European carmaker that boosted its sales in an automotive market where tricycles are more attractive than cars. Oh wait, there’s another. Volkswagen said that the current downturn only “puts them to test”, reporting increased sales in China (10.1 percent to 931,000 units), Brazil (11.9 percent to 591,800 units), Russia (61.6 percent) and India (59.7 percent).

Hard to believe, there must be a catch somewhere! And yes, there’s a catch indeed, but there’s nothing to keep away from the public eye. Let’s have a look at a random vehicle in the current MINI lineup. MINI Cooper for instance, is powered by a 1.6-liter engine that produces as much as 120 horsepower with a maximum speed of 203 km/h. Pretty decent, I would say. Fuel efficiency – 30.2 mpg (7.8 L/100Km) in city mode, 51.1 mpg (4.6 L/100Km) on highways. Outstanding! What would you need more? A large trunk? Would 5.6 cuFT (159 L) be enough? Well, it should be, especially for city roads…

I’m not saying that MINI Cooper is the best car in the world, it’s not even close to that (I’m a huge fan of the Batmobile, so MINI has no chance in this battle) but hey, if the company managed to gain such an impressive market audience during so difficult times, it really deserves praises.

It’s obvious that mini and small cars have the ability to make their parent companies leaders of the universe (at least of the automotive world), as the global recession has raised the demand for such vehicles. That’s why I’m asking you, do you think sales of mini and small cars are gonna explode this year? Analysts say they will, what’s your opinion?
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
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Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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