It’s a Mini Mockery

You may have seen links to the Mini E trial. This exciting outing for the new electronic Mini is likely to create some waves. The iconic little car is having a new power source, and it’s likely to make waves, because the Mini is already a cool car. The provision of environmental credentials – it doesn’t use fossil fuels in the creation of its motion (yes we know the arguments about electricity from power sources being equally fossil fuel derived, and we know that it is in the manufacture of vehicles that most of the damage to the environment is done) – will surely add credibility to its cool popularity.

Well that’s what I thought. And then there’s the Mini E trial. A cool research project in which the Mini E will be given for six months to a number of lucky research participants. Yes, a whole group of aspiring, not-tree-huggy-but-environmentally concerned drivers will spend six months living with the Mini E so that the company can assess what it is like to live with the product on a day-to-day basis.

There are some caveats. First of all, you have to live in the South East of England (they want built up areas to study but remain within a geographically compact region) so that’s Northern testers out (hey we’re pretty good at seeing how something will last up here). A South-East test means that most of the “team” on the programme won’t have far to travel. And you’ve got to have a private drive, carport or garage. So that means that most people who live in terraced, apartment or social housing won’t be able to take part (are they already socially engineering the electric car?)

And finally – you have to pay £330 for the privilege. YOU PAY TO TAKE PART IN THE TEST/RESEARCH. You pay money so that they can test the car on you. This cheap little marketing trick is strange. After all, testing will probably involve you keeping some kind of diary, being visited, maybe even filmed. Maybe they’ll look at you and how you live with the car. I can see all the UGC-derived adverts. Lots of video diaries, a kind of Blair Witch marketing story. And you pay £330 to for the joy of taking part. So – the rub is: you actually pay as you would for a normal car, which is still a prototype, still in beta. You pay as much as you would for a large contract hire diesel car (I’ve seen some C class Mercedes at this price).

I wonder what will happen if feedback is less than favourable. I wonder how it will work out, if I do a genuine test of daily use. “Day 3, and I drove the mini home pissed…… Crashed it into the private garage again. And now it’s been set on fire by outraged, impoverished product testers who live in the flats opposite me.” It’s going to be huge. It’s a Mini Adventure.