Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – Kicking off the year just where it left off in December, Mini U.S. sales keep soaring, Mini U.S.A. Vice President Jim McDowell points out, forecasting a 10% increase in deliveries for 2008.

Mini sold 42,045 cars in the U.S. in 2007. Sales were up 33% through the first two months of 2008.

“The world is becoming more Mini,” McDowell says in an interview at the auto show here, noting the worldwide movement to more efficient, cleaner-running vehicles. “We’re leaving (natural) resources for the next generation.”

Mini inventories are low, as they have been since U.S. sales began in 2002, and McDowell predicts dealer stocks will become minuscule once summer arrives.

Overall, customers have few complaints, the Mini executive says. Some buyers grouse about the car’s fuel economy, even though it is rated at 37 mpg (6.4 L/100 km) highway. Others want more interior space, a request that partially may be satisfied with the new Clubman that went on sale in February. McDowell believes the majority of Clubman sales will be incremental to Mini.

Demand for the standard hardtop model also continues to grow, he says. “If we have extreme demand (for our products), we can get supply from the factory in England to satisfy it.”

Mini buyers typically purchase $4,000-$5,000 in options, a figure McDowell expects to increase with the Clubman.

Virtually all of Mini’s 82 dealers are profitable, he says. Sales range from 300 to 825 units annually depending on the dealer, averaging about 500 vehicles per dealer per year overall.

Mini plans to create 13 new dealerships by 2010. McDowell says the average investment for a new Mini dealership is $1 million-$2 million, not including real estate. The next Mini dealership to open will be in Grand Rapids, MI, later this year.

The next Mini model to be introduced will be the second-generation convertible that will debut about a year from now. A CUV also is in the works but remains a couple of years from introduction.

McDowell says there are no plans for a hybrid model.

“We see more potential with clean diesels,” he says. But a production application won’t happen until a new-generation diesel is developed.