Interview by Kap Maceda Aguila
Where is the growth coming from in terms of models?
Within the Southeast Asia region, there are two core models that have seen really strong growth. The first is the Mini Countryman. I think the acceptance of the bigger-size Mini which can fit a full-size family and also can be a first car… took a bit of time to really build momentum, especially in the Philippines. But we do see a lot of growth in that segment. The second model is the iconic F56 three-door hatch, especially in the Cooper S and John Cooper Works engine variants. We saw a strong revival, I think, because in the last few years when borders were shut, people couldn’t travel and wanted to see their own countries in style — and picked a car that would enhance their driving enjoyment.
As economies are opening up, we’re seeing an uptick in vehicle demand, but an asterisk there would be the challenge of providing the actual cars — whether as a function of parts supply issues and an ongoing ship shortage. How is Mini doing in this regard, and how is it leveraging its membership in a bigger group that includes Rolls-Royce and BMW?
The whole semiconductor issue is still ongoing and is affecting the whole supply chain of vehicles and consumer electronics products as well. But rest assured I think we’ve already proven since last year that the supply has not been stopped for our dealer partners especially here in the Philippines and in the region. Every month, we have supplies going to the market. One thing we’ve learned about shortages of all these components is to limit the number of variants that we can offer in the markets. Together with our local partners, we have taken a strategic direction to streamline the model offerings to make sure that customers can get hold of our vehicles. I think that’s the most important thing for the consumers. Secondly, we do foresee the situation improving, but it will not go back to what we call normal days again. We just have to be cautiously optimistic with our planning, moving forward.
When Mini BGC opened late last year, it was positioned as a future-proof, electric-vehicle-ready facility. There are now more brands in the Philippines which are offering either hybrid or full-electric vehicles. What is the timing like for Mini Asia in this regard as far as the Philippines goes? When are you going to pull the trigger on bringing in EVs, and what are you looking at?
To answer your question bluntly, I don’t know when we will introduce the electric Minis here in the Philippines, but it will not be long. Globally, Mini has already announced officially that it will transform into a full-electric brand by 2030. Seven years from today is a very short time in the world of automotive. Rest assured that, yes, electric Minis will come to the Philippines pretty soon. I won’t say when.
Not this year, but pretty soon. Besides, we need to build up the expertise, technical skills; hardware and software coming together. We want to maintain the Mini brand experience throughout the whole ownership experience.
Why do you think Minis are usually a second or third car of households in the Philippines?
One of the main reasons is that Mini has always been known for its iconic three-door hatch design. Not many people in the market are aware of the fact that we have a Mini Clubman with six doors, or the Mini Countryman — a full-size SUV. It’s about communicating more effectively to a broader audience that we do have these, but we’ve already seen some success especially in the last two years — with the impressive growth of the Mini Countryman particularly in the Philippines.