MINI is showcasing a very special concept car: the MINI Concept Aceman heralds a completely new model that will enrich the brand’s portfolio from 2024 onwards. Stefanie Wurst, Head of MINI, and MINI Chief Designer Oliver Heilmer talk about the philosophy behind the first all-electric, urban MINI crossover in this interview.
Ms Wurst, a lot is changing at MINI in the next few years. What does the future strategy of the brand look like?
Stefanie Wurst: MINI will become fully electric at the start of the 2030s. The Chinese market is becoming increasingly important, but the MINI plant in Oxford remains the heart of our production. We are expanding our vehicle portfolio with an urban crossover model, the MINI Aceman – a vehicle that stands for a new generation and perfectly covers all social metatrend bases – and with it the future needs of urban target groups.
The MINI Concept Aceman provides a tangible glimpse of this future. What will its place be in the future MINI portfolio?
The MINI Concept Aceman opens a perspective to a completely new vehicle, bridging the space between the MINI Cooper and the MINI Countryman in the future of the model family. The concept car reflects how MINI is reinventing itself for its all-electric future and what the brand stands for: an electrified go-kart feel, an immersive digital experience for our community and a strong focus on a minimal environmental footprint.
Mr Heilmer, what is the purpose of concept cars like the MINI Concept Aceman?
Oliver Heilmer: We use a concept car to communicate a vehicle that will go into series production in the coming years. We emphasise, amplify and heighten the highlights in technology and design.
What special characteristics do you see in the MINI Concept Aceman?
It is young, cool and urban. Self-confident, yet sustainable. A crossover in the best sense; always on the move, powered in the city. We started by giving it the name “Urban Prodigy” internally. We demonstrate this character by exaggerating certain elements on the vehicle. And in this case, exaggeration can also mean reduction. Less can often be more – sometimes generating a much stronger impact. A very typical, almost classic idea at MINI. We focus on three points that will shape the future design understanding of the MINI brand with the MINI Concept Aceman: a modern and iconic design language, an immersive user experience, and all this based on a fundamental principle of sustainability.
How do these points intertwine in the MINI Concept Aceman? Can you give us an example?
Just take a look at the clear, pared-back design of the dashboard. It is strongly reminiscent of the simplicity of the earliest Classic Mini. Sir Alec Issigonis’ fundamental idea at the time was that every element of the vehicle must have a clear use. This is also the case with the MINI Concept Aceman. The covering of the dashboard is recycled 2-D woven fabric. This lends a certain warmth to the interior and at the same time serves as a screen for digital projections, which in turn can be individualised. This is completely new and sustainable thinking because it gives us the freedom to dispense with decorative trims that are chosen once and then remain the same throughout the entire life cycle.
And what do you mean by an immersive user experience?
We take a holistic approach to the MINI Concept Aceman: from the materials, form and light right up to sound and the dynamic projections in the interior, on the dashboard and in the doors. Everything has been designed in harmony with each other and with the consistent goal to offer our customers a multi-layered user experience. The MINI Concept Aceman does not deliver a hodgepodge of individual features. Everything here flows together. A holistic, immersive experience, as we call it.
MINI has always been a brand whose models have exuded a strong personality. To this day, MINI fans give their cars names. What kind of bond can I expect to build with the MINI Concept Aceman?
The MINI Concept Aceman wants to be more than just a car that gets you from A to B. It’s more like a digital buddy, a partner in crime. Its interconnectivity means it knows more about what you can experience in a city than you do.
The driver of the MINI Concept Aceman communicates in part via the OLED display. What else does this digital tool do?
OLED stands for “organic light-emitting diode”. The display offers amazingly high colour brilliance. It is very flat and consumes less energy than a comparable LED display. Interaction is either via the round display or the exclusive Experience Toggle switch below the display. Three novel “Experience Modes” let you immerse yourself in new personalised and individualised worlds in the MINI Concept Aceman.
Ms Wurst, in addition to the three “Experience Modes” that Mr Heilmer mentioned, a one-off MINI Concept Aceman at gamescom also demonstrated a Pokémon Mode. What's behind this fun cooperation at the world’s biggest gaming event?
Stefanie Wurst: As we already mentioned, the digital networking of our MINI Community is an important strategic pillar. MINI is going digital – inside and out – with a much broader user experience. In this context, gamification has an increasingly important role in the MINI of the future. By collaborating with Pokémon, the joy of the franchise brings two iconic characters who go perfectly with each other together with millions of fans. We not only reach a new group of people at gamescom 2022 – an event for modern fandom, gaming and pop culture – but also set important brand accents in the direction of digitalisation and community.
Mr Heilmer, we have already talked about the ecological footprint of the MINI Concept Aceman. In which details do these aspects come across?
Oliver Heilmer: The MINI Concept Aceman is all electric. So of course, it consistently continues the electrification of our brand. But that alone does not make a vehicle sustainable. Basically, we have massively reduced the number of components. The front and rear lights, for example, no longer have an enclosing frame. We no longer use chrome either. When it comes to the interior, the doors have a reduced design with surface-integrated loudspeakers. The dashboard and armrests in the doors feature a high-quality woven fabric made from recycled polyester. There are lots of little things that combine to make the car more environmentally friendly. We have simplified everywhere and at the same time emphasised what is special. This is also very, very MINI.
The car radiates strength despite the reduction. How do you explain this effect?
I think, it’s rather cheeky! In any case, it has a completely different nature, a completely different face than our other models. And another thing: the MINI Concept Aceman manages to look bigger than it actually is. That is precisely what makes this vehicle so exceptionally strong. Despite its large interior, it is small and compact on the outside, yet still looks completely self-assured and robust. A perfect buddy for urban living.