Mini - The Devil’s Advocate

Mini – The Devil’s Advocate

Recently I noticed a billboard with an ad for the new Mini Clubman and Countryman John Cooper Works. It struck me as a good subject for a text.

“306 horsepower.
Challenge yourself.”

This week I am writing about an advertising billboard. Well, not so much about the billboard per se, but what it means in the grand scheme of things. Which is not that grand, because we are talking about cars, not the cure for some disease, but still, bear with me.

When I first saw this billboard on the street as I drove past it, I didn’t get the chance to double-check so was left in doubt as to what I was reading. But then I saw it again next to a traffic light with time on my side. I must have read it four or five times before I finally realised I wasn’t wrong: here was a gigantic billboard paid for by a major car constructor advertising performance, advertising speed. Not fuel efficiency or Apple Car Play, or easy finance payments, but horsepower.

This made me happy. In a sanitised world when speed is frowned upon, here was Mini saying fast cars are not dead yet.

But why is this relevant? Well, the truth is, the pace of change within the automotive industry is greater than ever. The need to lower CO2 and NOX emissions is forcing a revolution which, as I have written in these pages before, is being orchestrated in a way that doesn’t allow its goals to be achieved. Pathetic, but sadly true.

The change from internal combustion cars to pure electric vehicles is actually slower than it seems, but the buzz around EVs is absolutely overwhelming. And with it comes a series of unintended consequences. One of them is the fact that the passion for cars, for speed, for the adrenaline of driving is simply fading away.

The car is becoming a tool for connectivity while you are moving from A to B.

In fact, with all the technology available today in our cars, the car is getting closer to what it was 100 years ago: a tool – not an object of desire, of freedom, but a simple (yet extremely complex) tool.

Yes, exceptionally powerful cars are still around and there are still enough people buying them that they are a must on the accountant’s sheets, but if they are not electric, they are not the talk of the town anymore. What cars mean is changing forever and that is why I looked closely at that billboard.

I have not driven the new Clubman or Countryman in John Cooper Works guise, the two cars displayed on the ad, but I drove the last iteration of both and have a pretty good idea of what they will be like behind the wheel. Those 306 horsepower are, without a shadow of a doubt, the most important thing about them, their defining characteristic, but I was still dumbstruck that Mini chose to advertise it.

On the first six months of 2019, 224 people lost their lives on Portuguese roads, six more than in 2018, whereas the number of badly injured victims has gone up from 893 to 994. Instead of making people learn how to drive properly, the government blames speed and the easy action is to install more speed cameras and to make policemen stand dangerously by the side of the road taking our picture as we drive by, instead of doing something that would actually move society forward.

That hardly seems to be working, or the numbers wouldn’t keep on going up. The truth is speed does not kill – people do. People kill when they drink and drive, when they don’t change the tyres when they have to, when they don’t know their limits or the limits of the car or the road, when they forego common sense and speed without reason.

Cars are not to blame. People are. But in this politically correct world that we are parading ourselves in, it’s much easier to blame the car, to blame speed. A complete nonsense, but it makes those who operate in that market refrain from advertising it.

But speed, remember, is the only true modern sensation (thanks for that insight Mr. Huxley). Speed is exhilarating and, provided it is used and enjoyed properly, brings no harm to anyone, at least no more than taking an elevator instead of climbing up a flight of stairs.

So you see, Mini’s decision to advertise speed – it is, ultimately, what is being advertised – must be commended. It’s like saying: live a little. Find out what 306 horsepower mean. Enjoy yourself. Now, obviously, Mini is not saying: take our cars on a public road and do something dangerous to you and others. Yes, you can do that – but you can also do it with a 50 horsepower car for that matter.

I love cars and I am sad that they are being turned into villains for all sorts of reasons. Cars are not villains. People are. I have driven a lot of 306 horse-powered cars and not once have I put a fellow citizen in harm’s way because of it. That didn’t stop me ‘living a little’. In fact, it didn’t stop me living a lot.

Great ad, guys. Please keep them coming.

By Guilherme Marques

Mini - The Devil’s Advocate

Mini - The Devil’s Advocate

Mini - The Devil’s Advocate