Design, size, marketing revamped to move up Diana T. Kurylko Automotive News August 8, 2015 - 12:01 am ET NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Mini is changing its marketing and will pitch to the "executive personality" as products move upmarket, its North American chief says. "We have to evolve and see something new," which will include lighter colors and a different tone when the redesigned Clubman goes on sale in early January, said David Duncan, vice president of Mini of the Americas. Mini launched U.S. sales in 2002 after BMW AG's purchase of the British minicar brand. "If I am an uninformed consumer, I would think it is the same" as it was in 2002, Duncan said. Mini was positioned as a sporty, small-car brand with an irreverent attitude and quirky features -- such as door and window locks in the center console and a big speedometer in the center dashboard instead of behind the steering wheel. Mini was dinged repeatedly for some of those features and responded, Duncan said. With the redesign of the Cooper Hardtop and the launch of the Hardtop 4 Door, Mini moved the door/window controls to the windows, the speedometer to the left and the seat recliner from the front of the seat to the side. The interior was improved. The redesigned Clubman wagon due in January will go even further, with an exclusive interior and more premium features. With a 12-inch increase in length, the Clubman will be Mini's first compact and compete with vehicles such as the Volkswagen Golf -- and even the Mercedes-Benz CLA and Audi A3, Duncan said. "It marks a turning point," he said. "I do see us being cross-shopped across a luxury brand, in that we are actually a good value." A new look Marketing will have to reflect that upward positioning. "The look will change. We have used nighttime and images against a black background," Duncan said. "You will see it in a more natural environment and see daytime ads." Mini will emphasize premium touches and craftsmanship but will not entirely abandon fanciful ads. "That part should still be told, but it may depend on the character of the car," Duncan said. Along with the Cooper Hardtop and the Countryman, the Clubman will be among the four Mini "hero cars," volume models based on a BMW Group platform using BMW engines and components. The fourth hasn't been revealed but could be a sports car/roadster that takes styling cues from the sexy Superleggera concept. 'Not boring' Mini's character hasn't changed in an important way -- the cars are still designed with sporty handling. "The driving dynamics of the cars are not boring," Duncan said. "There are already a lot of people that are attracted to Mini, but it doesn't fit their lifestyle and is seen as too small." Duncan says he is often asked how big a Mini can be. He wouldn't disclose whether the Countryman crossover will grow significantly when redesigned. The replacement Countryman is expected in late 2016. Mini's appeal from its launch in 1959 was maximizing space in a small car. "As long as we stay true to what we were in the beginning," Duncan said, "we do not need to be limited by size." Duncan also expects Mini's appeal to grow because of the extensive use of BMW components in redesigned models. Mini won't tout this in marketing, but "it helps in the marketplace," Duncan said. "I would not dissuade a dealer to do that." Duncan said Mini has recovered from last year's slump -- U.S. sales in 2014 fell 16 percent from a year earlier -- and he expects 2015 U.S. sales of about 66,500 cars. Mini's sales through July rose 18 percent to 35,451 vehicles.