The traditional auto industry is in flux. A new mobility ecosystem is emerging, setting the stage for immense innovation.
MINI is taking a holistic view of the ecosystem their cars live in to stay ahead of the curve on the trends of urban life.
MINI Beyond is a new division that is focused on urban lifestyle areas like housing fashion and mobility. The initiative came from a long period of research to help MINI reach a younger audience. It also isn’t far off some of the trends the company has been talking about since last years LA Autoshow. So anyone closely following the brand shouldn’t be caught off guard by this shift, especially if you look at what they’ve been doing in China, which is the world’s largest automotive market.
In October they showed MINI Living Beijing a housing concept, it is the fourth concept they’ve launched after London, New York and Los Angles. It is the latest step in its very real-world plan to launch compact and flexible urban spaces to rent from mid-2019.
One of the major parts of this new initiative kicks off next year, as MINI will start managing an apartment building in Shanghai, its first move into real estate. The company is converting an 80,000-square-foot old paint factory to house about 70 tenants in a co-living space, with several shared facilities and amenities that can be paid for on-demand when in use.
‘To bring the outside inside’ is important to the whole Mini Living project which, while far from intending to be a solution for the lowest earners in the world’s biggest cities, does nonetheless intend to make better use of urban spaces and provide good value accommodation for young professionals or global urban travelers alike.
The first of these concepts’ will be realized this May when the first rentable Mini Living apartments are due to launch in a refurbished old paint factory in the Jing’An district of Shanghai.
This space will show off the brands DNA by using space creatively. Making the most of small spaces has been key to MINI’s identity and Esther Bahne, MINI’s head of brand strategy and business innovation believes “There are things we can do in the space, credibly.”
As the vision implies, MINI will look beyond. The space, will have cars available for on-demand mobility for residents, while the building will have first-floor retail space open to the general public. Peter Schwarzenbauer, a member of the BMW Group board of management, said MINI sold 32,000 cars in China, making the country its sixth-biggest market.
Schwarzenbauer believes that MINI’s apartment rental business will “really go through the roof” in China, especially as they are partnering with local businesses and organizations to help deliver and manage it.
“Being part of this world we’re creating: that’s the key,” Schwarzenbauer said.
MINI is moving into fashion by partnering with designers, something Schwarzenbauer said should help cement its brand in China. The Chinese market engages with brands in a different way than the West, shopping is seems is a combination of exploration and entertainment rather than functional consumption. People really try different things from various brands, with a copycat culture in its heritage, luxury brands like MINI have the opportunity to establish themselves as a thought leader in the holistic living space. This type of trust causes two that they trust to stick with long-term.
We’ve written extensively about how the future of retail lives in China, for us it comes as no surprise that when a brand wants to experiment creatively it looks to China first.
MINI is not just focused on China, all though its first living space is launching there. MINI Fashion already has a European line of clothing. In New York MINI has launched A/D/O a creative hub that is built for designers. It is part of the Innovation practice at MINI and represents the company’s core belief that designers hold the keys to progress.
Also in Brooklyn is URBAN-X (a start-up accelerator) that has initiatives based around using design for a brighter urban life. URBAN-X primarily works with early-stage companies who look to solve urban problems. At LA CoMotion they held a session with MINI about defining a new model of collaboration.
URBAN-X is beyond cars. It is committed to solving societies problems as they relate to urbanization. #ReimagingCityLife The accelerator is on it’s fifth round of startups, the first round began in July of 2017, like I said, if you’ve been following MINI closely the MINI Beyond initiative really is years of re-positioning coming to fruition. In a way, it makes me respect the brand even more, we’re often inundated with companies talking about their vision of the future an failing to execute. MINI has laid a foundation to truly look at the intersection between industries, which is traditionally where you find real innovation.
Powerful and disruptive trends are already converging. Today’s automakers face a not-so-distant future in which they will have to change dramatically. MINI is well on its way to future-proofing its legacy.