MINI, a new division of BMW of North America, sent letters of intent to 70 dealer candidates, generally located in major metropolitan and progressive urban areas in 29 states.

The letters signify MINI's intent to give dealership franchises for the new generation of MINIs, a small vehicle which BMW plans to sell worldwide. The brand plans to sell 18,000 annually in the U.S. when the $18,000 Cooper model hits the market for 2002.

MINI received an overwhelming number of proposals from prospective candidates seeking a MINI dealer agreement, says Jack Pitney, MINI's general manager.

“We had such strong interest in the MINI franchise that it was difficult to narrow down the field,” he says. “That was the hard part, but now we are pleased to be on the way to having great MINI passenger car dealers.”

The letters of intent detail required dealership standards for such things as sales staff (they must be exclusively assigned to the brand), showroom environment (MINI wants separate showrooms with their own entrances), technical support and service. Dealers agreeing to those standards will ultimately get a franchise.

A dealer locator will shortly be available on MINIUSA.com.