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Is Mini planning to revive the spirit of the classic old Moke as a Subaru Outback or Crosstrek Wilderness-style off-road-focused offshoot of future SUVs and crossovers?
This might be one of the very intriguing directions the German-owned British brand could be headed in, starting with the third-generation, U25-series Countryman launching in Australia next year.
Speaking to Australian journalists at the Munich IAA mobility show earlier this month, Head of the Mini brand at BMW Group, Stephanie Wurst, hinted at a Moke-style makeover of an established model as an option moving forward.
"There are a lot of possibilities on the way, even with the body types that we have now," she said.
"I think (a Moke-style concept) is a great idea. I think it fits the Mini brand very well, and is also possible if you think of it as an addition or maybe even a variation of a Countryman now – that would be a great concept."
Readers with longer memories might recall that this is not the first time Mini has been down the Moke-referencing road, as the Beachcomber Concept from the 2010 Detroit Auto Show demonstrated.
With door-less open-body engineering, plastic bolt-on/off panel options and soft-top roof, the evocatively-named Beachcomber was truly a re-imagined Moke for modern times, though it actually previewed what became the original Countryman from 2010 to 2016, so we're talking a full-circle possibility here with Moke.
Wurst admitted to being surprised at the dramatic increase in demand for recreational SUVs globally in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and believes there are big opportunities ahead for Mini as a result, even in regions that traditionally aren't into lifestyle-adventure vehicles.
"Even in China where they have a different cultural background, when they were locked-down with COVID, they did all these rugged vehicles and went camping in the Gobi Desert," she said.
"Camping is a big thing and rugged is very relevant in a lot of areas, in the US for example, and probably (in Australia) as well but also in China you wouldn't have thought of it, but now people change and they enjoy this type of concept."
Wurst added that exploring new niches is especially topical now that a gap has appeared in the Mini line-up following the demise of the Clubman wagon.
"Do not forget, while right now we have the Clubman and the Countryman, in the future, we will only have the Countryman," she said. "The goal is to work with the Countryman as much as we can. We have to make use of this car as much as we can.
"The Mini brand is really strong… so we are always open to new concepts."
Whether BMW's British brand can use the Moke name is not yet clear, but management has been researching it lately.
"I am not sure if we own the name, but we were just researching it a couple of weeks ago," Wurst revealed. "But since people remember it, if we wanted to own it or re-own it, I'm sure we could."
Of course, the Moke in its original, 1964 British Motor Corporation form still exists in some parts of the world. Established late last decade and built by MOKE International, today's version is built by an independent company in the UK, and is offered as a 33kW/130Nm electric vehicle (EV) capable of 80km/h and 87km of WLTP combined range, for around US$65,400.
Speaking of which, with Mini embarking on a complete range overhaul to see it through to going all-electric by the end of this decade, Wurst believes that anything is possible.
"What you are seeing now, after a period where we didn't have a lot of entries or new cars apart of the Mini Electric that we are selling now, we are having our biggest transformation ever," she said.
"We have three new characters – one is really close to the iconic original Mini, which is the Mini Cooper, and then we have a big concept like the Countryman and small SAV, the Aceman.
"(And) every product we are launching will be available with an electric drivetrain. We didn't have that before… we will have a multitude of electric drivetrains in all the body types. And that's the biggest newness aspect."