18 September 2018
Author: Sean Keywood
A new version of the Mini Clubman aimed specifically at fleets is spearheading a new assault by the brand on the sector. Sean Keywood reports.
Mini is making a concerted effort to increase its presence in fleet, with a new version of its Clubman leading the charge. The brand says the new Clubman City has been specced specifically to appeal to fleet customers.
It states that the Clubman, along with the Countryman SUV, forms part of a larger car offensive that is targeting the corporate market, as opposed to the smaller three-door and five-door Hatch.
According to David George, Mini UK's director, much of Mini's previous corporate business came from the Hatch, which went to the likes of estate agents and driving schools, but the larger cars provide an opportunity for more mainstream fleet business.
He said, "People's perception tends to be of a fun, small car, but we have got some serious cars now - the Clubman and the Countryman.
"Some of our retailers have got a much more sophisticated feel, but importantly, Mini hasn't lost what's important to it, which is still being amazing to drive and having that go-kart feeling."
George confirmed that there was an effort to change the perception of the brand among fleet customers.
He said, "I've termed it from affection to attraction. Everybody loves Mini, but there are too many people that really don't consider it as a potential car for them.
"We find now, when people are exposed to the Clubman and the Countryman compared with their peers, they are pleasantly surprised with the size of them because people are thinking about the Hatch.
"What we want to show people is you can drive a bigger Mini with all the inherent spirit of the original."
Daniel Leigh, national corporate sales manager for Mini UK, said when the Clubman City was being developed, feedback had been sought about what fleets were looking for.
"Where we came up with the idea for this model predominantly was in talking to the fleet market," he explained.
"We have a dedicated BMW Group corporate sales team who manage all of our customers, from SMEs to customers that buy 500 or 600 Minis a year.
"We took feedback from them and from the account management team, and came up with a model we thought would work really well for the corporate market.
"We really have put this together with what our fleet customers want in mind."
Among the fleet-focused features of the Clubman City are the engine options of a 1.5-litre 102hp petrol and a 1.5-litre 116hp diesel - entry-level powertrains that had previously been removed from the Clubman range.
Leigh said Mini found a lot of competitors had similar engines that appealed to essential user-type fleets, adding that the 109g/km official CO2 figure for the diesel would appeal to a lot of fleets that had sub-110g/km policies.
Other equipment Mini said had been chosen with fleets in mind includes rear parking sensors, sat-nav, air conditioning and cruise control as standard, along with 17in alloy wheels as a no-cost option.
George said, "It's available for retail, but predominantly designed around the needs of fleets, which is something I don't think we have done in the past.
"We have specced based on the retail offer and hoped they would fly in the fleet marketplace, but this model is perfect for the corporate market."
George also said another area of focus for appealing to fleets was to make the process of buying a Mini more simple.
"We're trying to make it easier for people to understand the Mini range. For people coming from mainstream brands and premium competitors, it's probably easier to understand their range than ours," he explained.
"Customers might come in saying they want to buy a Cooper or Cooper S; that's not a model, you have to say which body shape you want that in.
"The last thing we want to do is put up barriers for people putting Mini on choice lists. For a leasing company today, if one car is slightly more difficult to understand, you are not going to get the cut -through we need, so we need to make it as easy to understand as possible."
George added Mini was in a strong fleet market position following the move to NEDC-correlated WLTP emissions figures, which saw the average official CO2 emission increase by just 5g/km across its range, comparing well with competitors.
He also said alternative fuels would be a big part of its future in the sector, with the Countryman PHEV and the introduction of the Mini Electric.