By on March 22, 2018

Sales of the Mini brand have been in a downward spiral since 2013 and U.S. dealerships want to know what expect in the future. Any prospects for the nameplate to grow into a volume brand appears to have been thrown out the window by BMW Group, and it’s now looking like it could shift into electrification.

Dealers, however, don’t know this for sure, and hope to gain clarity on the matter as the domestic market dives deeper into its appreciation for trucks, SUVs, and crossovers.

“I don’t think the dealers have a very clear vision of where the car line is going long term,” explained Jason Willis, member of the Mini National Dealer Council. “There is a lot of pride on being a small-car performance company, so my guess is we will continue to be a small-car company. But as far as electric and how we fit in, we’re still waiting to hear that plan.”

In an extended interview with Automotive News, Willis expressed his concerns over the electrification of the brand —  and what he hopes to learn next month, when BMW Group’s board meets with Mini retailers after the 2018 National Automobile Dealers Association.

“With less cars sold, dealers had to be much more aggressive closing car deals and coming to agreements with customers,” Willis said. “So our profit margins on sales definitely shrunk year over year. Overall dealer profitability is worse in 2017 than it was in 2016. It was [because of lower] new-car volume and new-car grosses combined … The profitability potential of a Mini is relatively low compared to other manufacturers who sell in similar price ranges.”

The solution is to make the cars more appetizing to a specific kind of customer. Mini doesn’t make big SUVs and trucks and shouldn’t bother marketing its vehicles on mass appeal. Fortunately, this is one aspect of the problem the manufacturer already seems to have gotten a handle on.

“Mini did change advertising companies,” explained Willis. “So we have a new advertising game plan that will be much more focused on the vehicle and the luxury and the performance and the fun that Mini brings and less focused on social issues or other types of advertising Mini has done in the past. The Super Bowl commercial last year, the theme was that Mini is for everybody, but it was very little about the car.”

He went on to say that dealers have been largely happy with the direction its marketing has taken. An emphasis on fun, Willis noted, is more in line with the brand’s core values, but Mini USA is still fighting for a bigger advertising budget.

Willis also noted that the lineup isn’t going to change for a while. While there will be some refreshed models coming out over the next two years (and an battery-electric Cooper in 2019), no other redesigns or new models are likely until at least 2020. That’s a problem. Dealers know that small cars are an important part of Mini’s identity but they are also aware that the U.S. isn’t so keen on them right now. Willis said it might be prudent for the brand to at least attempt to offer something more mainstream in the future, noting the success of Porsche and Jaguar’s push into utility vehicles.

“I believe there’s room in the model lineup for [something bigger than the Countryman]. I also believe there’s room for a halo car, whether it be the Superleggera, the two-door convertible concept shown two or three years ago,” said Willis. “We continue to have customers come in and ask about it and wonder when they can buy it. That is a wow, got-to-have product, and that is the type of thing that really shows what Mini can be.”

Additionally, he said he’d like to see more leasing and would not be surprised if the company introduced a subscription service — but noted he hasn’t heard anything official on the matter. Overall, what Willis and the rest of the dealer network wants are answers. They want to know if Mini is destined to remain a niche brand fighting for its life amid declining sales or if the manufacturer has some kind of master plan that involves SUVs or electrification.

For now, BMW Group looks to be taking a steady-as-she-goes approach as it considers what is to be done. But we doubt an answer like that will satisfy those hurting dealerships.

[Images: BMW Group]

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111 Comments on “Mini Dealers Want to Know What the Hell Is Going on With the Brand...”


  • avatar
    Sub-600

    MINI may want to stop making their cars bigger, the Clubman will be the size of a ‘72 Catalina in a few years at this rate. Electrification makes sense if there’s some kind of technological breakthrough, batteries are just too big unless they want some kind of city runabout.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    It’s just another retro car that has out lived its useful life. PT cruiser is long gone, it was around a few years longer than it should have. VW New Beetle, will be gone soon. Lived too long too.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    It’s just another retro car that has out lived its useful life. PT cruiser is long gone, it was around a few years longer than it should have. VW New Beetle, will be gone soon. Lived too long too.

    • 0 avatar
      darex

      The PT CRUISER sucked in every way possible, and stuck around way too long. The current Beetle offered nothing special, and has been axed, in any case. MINIs, on the other hand, have bona fide superior driving dynamics, and are very refined, with only a nod to the past, while being very up-to-date technologically. You really cannot compare present-day MINIs to either the Beetle, or especially, to the PT Cruiser.

      • 0 avatar
        bking12762

        65corvair is merely saying retro styled cars generally have a short shelf life. ie 02-05 T-Bird, FJ Cruiser, Fiats, HHR. I think that is a fact.

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        Darex– We can certainly compare early run PT Cruiser to early run Mini Cooper. They share the same engine architecture, body style and sold in the same market segment; niche luxeish hatchback

        Call them pure profit showroom filler for non-sedan people, if you prefer.

        • 0 avatar
          darex

          Well, the MINI Cooper today is in its 3rd generation, and now has only B38/B48 BMW engines, a BMW-shared architecture/chassis, BMW-shared electronics and programming, etc, etc. In short, no comparison now. PT Cruiser lasted only one generation.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            Darex, speaking only of Clubman – it sucks. If the rest of Mini is that way than they are bad.
            I had test drive and spent 2 hours to touch, drive and feel it; after that when I got into my 7yo Mazda3 and start driving it home, I realized how much better driving old Mazda than new Clubman. This is my answer why I didn’t buy Mini

          • 0 avatar
            iNeon

            Darex– An organically-grown, genetically-modified vegetable still shares most of it’s architecture with it’s progenitor.

            A tomato’s a tomato. Whole Foods v. Aldi– they share too much to ignore.

            Hatchback is hatchback.

            Save your status, marketing segmentation and today social studies for places where they’re necessary, please. We’re talking about historical objects you brought up.

            Historical objects, I might add– that did sell in higher quantities than your pet that’s outlived it’s usefulness. It doesn’t matter in this that Chrysler’s(or the PT Cruiser submodel) been mismanaged since. PT was significant then, and it is germane to our argument.

            That’s also what we’re talking about. Mini having no direction, and straying so far from the plot, profit and originality (that Chrysler helped bring to Mini with a low-cost non-bmw, reliable lol engine) that they’re redundant and useless today.

            Those facts and commonalities are important when discussing MINI, you know? I’m glad you brought them up. It’s dear to me to have that era in automotive design remembered. I enjoyed that engine family quite a lot.

      • 0 avatar
        FerrariLaFerrariFace

        Not true at all. Especially if you’ve ever driven a PT with a stick. The Getrag transmission they used was pretty damn good and made for a reasonably fun cheap hatchback. The rear seats could be removed easily creating a huge cargo space with a low, flat floor. I stuffed an entire drum kit in there back in my music-playin’ days.
        I will agree with you that it stuck around way too long, but that’s Daimler’s fault. They never updated it to any significant degree, and the retro look got old after a while. But for it’s time… 20 years ago… it was a great, cheap, stylish, useful car.

      • 0 avatar
        aajax

        I rather liked my first-year PT Cruiser Limited 5-speed. It was finally done in by incompetent dealer service after 10 years at about 160,000 miles, but was good up till then.

    • 0 avatar
      darex

      The PT CRUISER sucked in every way possible, and stuck around way too long. The current Beetle offered nothing special, and has been axed, in any case. MINIs, on the other hand, have bona fide superior driving dynamics, and are very refined, with only a nod to the past, while being very up-to-date trchnologically. You really cannot compare present-day MINIs to either the Beetle, or especially, the PT Cruiser.

      • 0 avatar
        FerrariLaFerrariFace

        Every way possible? Not true at all. Especially if you’ve ever driven a PT with a stick. The Getrag transmission they used was pretty damn good and made for a reasonably fun cheap hatchback. The rear seats could be removed easily creating a huge cargo space with a low, flat floor. I stuffed an entire drum kit in there back in my music-playin’ days.
        I will agree with you that it stuck around way too long, but that’s Daimler’s fault. They never updated it to any significant degree, and the retro look got old after a while. But for it’s time… 20 years ago… it was a great, cheap, stylish, useful car.

    • 0 avatar
      b534202

      Unfortunately for them, their brand can only sell a car that looks like a Mini. No one there seems to want to make something completely different.

    • 0 avatar
      IBx1

      Y’all seem to forget the PT Cruiser sold 10,000 copies in the US in 2010. That’s 1/4 of the entire Mini brand in the US in 2010, which included the new Countryman. I imagine the development and tooling costs were paid off by ’04 after selling a few hundred thousand PT’s, so it’s hard to say it was around for too long.

  • avatar
    markf

    Cause every chubby, Middle-Aged housewife who wanted one got one. They all thought it would make them look younger, thinner and sexy. They were wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      oleladycarnut

      markf, I didn’t know the target audience of TTAC was 13 year old adolescent boys.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      So thats who was buying these? I was always curious. Ok so it was them and my now retired dentist. i

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “Cause every chubby, Middle-Aged housewife who wanted one got one.”

      Joining local MINI club now.

    • 0 avatar
      Redsqdn

      Markf, I am a middle aged professional/mom and I didn’t get a JCW Mini to make me look young, sexy or thin. I don’t give two F-s what anyone thinks of me. I got it because I like to drive like a muther… So keep your childish comments where they belong, middle school.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        What else made your shopping list before buying the MINI? Curious as to what that gets cross shopped against.

        I’m asking because I like the idea of MINI, but the premium they charge for customization doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t care about that. And maybe that’s why I don’t get MINI, other than liking the idea of possible getting a BMW X1 with a cooler looking body and a manual transmission (Clubman).

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          1. I suspect, Clubman is the worst Mini today. It is too heavy. While about size of Mazda3 hatch, it is up to 500lb heavier. and because of this, it is not all that much fun to drive

          2. Customization doesn’t cost extra. In fact, you can save $$. For example, lets say Clubman S starts at 27K. You go to dealer and see them all having 1 $4k package or another $4K package, or both. + some smaller features. And you get $36-38K Clubmans all over the place. you go to website, build one you want then discuss pricing with dealer and they just send order. I remember building one for 33K, and this is including $1000 blue paint. It had 1500 rebate + whatever I can beat out of dealer.
          I agree – mini is overpriced but I can’t say that customization makes it more expensive. Yes, if you think that for $4K package has 1,2,3,4,5 thing. but bought separately, they cost $5K. But what if I don’t want 3,4,5? I delete these and now I only pay $2K

      • 0 avatar
        markf

        “Markf, I am a middle aged professional/mom and I didn’t get a JCW Mini to make me look young, sexy or thin. I don’t give two F-s what anyone thinks of me. I got it because I like to drive like a muther… So keep your childish comments where they belong, middle school.”

        Looks like I struck a nerve with the Chubby, Middle-Aged housewife set…….

  • avatar
    SqueakyVue

    “and an battery-electric Cooper”
    Who edited this?

  • avatar
    Brian E

    By the time you get a few options on a Countryman S, you’re encroaching on X1 territory, and the BMW dealer is probably next door. The Mini also doesn’t have the gadgets to compete with the entry-lux alternatives. I really don’t understand who their target customer is, and apparently neither does Mini.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    in addition to everything said before,Mini Cooper’s target audience are 23-33 year olds living in the city.

    Nowadays, it’s less of a hassle to flag Uber—and cheaper especially if you factor in parking $$$ and time saved not looking for parking.

    PS, Mini’s allegedly awful long-term reliability is the second nail in the coffin.

    PPS, with every other car a high-riding _UV, I’d imagine that driving a Mini in suburban/highway traffic feels claustorphobic.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    If they want to increase sales, I suggest a full sized pickup, midsized crossover, 3 row crossover.

    I think the answer is simply people aren’t looking for “mini” transportation right now…period.

    A premium small car makes sense in high fuel cost environment, but right now, Mini might be as out of Vogue as Hummer was when gasoline shot up over $4/gallon more than a decade ago.

    • 0 avatar
      Verbal

      “I think the answer is simply people aren’t looking for “mini” transportation right now…period.”

      Actually, people aren’t looking for fun from their cars anymore. Which is why everyone is driving around in a toaster on wheels. It is a transportation module, nothing more.

      • 0 avatar
        snakebit

        I wasn’t looking for “a toaster on wheels” when I moved to the Sierra Nevada foothills last Fall, and I vowed before arriving here that you’d never see an SUV in my driveway, but when I left our VW Golf and BMW coupe in the East, I had to replace them with a new car, and my family in Lake Tahoe and their neighbors told me I’d better get an SUV if I had any hope of visiting them at their 6,200 foot altitude home four months of the year. So, that’s what I did. And while our winter here started out being very mild(at least at our 4,800 level home, the last two weeks were bad enough that I’m glad I took their advice. On a separate subject, I believe BMW has used the trademark MINI to brand their little cars built in Oxford/Cowley UK, and the comments audience seems to have picked up on that, but between Matt Posky and your copy editors, they have not. Aside from the trademark, it lets readers know whether you’re writing about the BMW product(MINI) or the British Leyland/Rover products(Mini) that came before it. That’s how I distinquish between the two when I’m writing about them.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Ah, but the Hummer was the smarter long term buy.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    What’s the take rate on manual transmissions for the Mini brand? I’m guessing it’s much higher than average. That said, electric Minis might not be a great idea, unless it opens a different demographic to the brand.

    • 0 avatar
      darex

      You raise a good point! Which other car brand in North America offers manuals across all models, regardless of trim? None other, that’s who. Who else allows extreme personalization through custom ordering? Virtually none, and certainly not at that price-point.

      Anyone who supports “Save the Manuals” had better be singing MINI’s praises, or they’re full of crap! I’m on my 3rd MINI, all each was a muanual, and currently drive a loaded 2018 Countryman S All4 – manual transmission. It’s the reason I chose it over its twin, the BMW X1.

      In the past, the manual take-rate was nearly 50%! I doubt it’s that high now, but I bet it’s at least 25%, especially for the Hardtop.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Greatest asset of Mini is that you can literally build one online with colors, finish and features you want; and receive it in 6 weeks time. I am not sure how many people know that.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Great, but when you’re done, you’ve got a $35,000 Mini with a lousy three-banger.

        I think they’d be better served by less customization and more value for your money. They aren’t bad cars by any means – just ridiculously overpriced.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    Hang on – MINI has its own dealership network? I’d wager one could fire a cannon through most of them these days as I rarely see one on the road. That said, my friend Catherine was to store her friend’s MINI for a year whilst said friend was on walkabout. She instead drove the Hell out of it – to the tune of 4500 Kms in just the warmer months here in Hoth/Alberta. They are apparently fun city cars.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      You live in *Alberta* and are surprised you don’t see MINIs? They are all over the place in both my summer and winter haunts – and that is with the closest MINI dealer to Portland ME being 100 miles away.

      I like them, I just don’t see the value proposition over a GTI. They get too expensive too fast, and the interiors are too silly for me. But that said, if I had to replace my BMW wagon, I would probably buy a Clubman as it is the ONLY decently equipped manual transmission wagon you can buy in the US currently. VW will only sell a stick in a poverty spec long-roof Golf, or in a decently equipped but stupid Alltrak. Assuming I just didn’t say to heck with it and buy a second GTI. Or a Cayman.

      • 0 avatar
        Tele Vision

        I see 50 BMWs for every MINI, thereabouts. I see more Corvettes and Camaros than MINIs. I see more WRXs than MINIs. I won’t mention BroDozers but you get my point. It isn’t the fact that they’re small city cars – it’s that they’re a third car around here, at best… And any Miata is a better car than a MINI. QED.

        • 0 avatar
          darex

          If you see more Corvettes than MINIs where you live, then you’re living in a parallel universe to the rest of us. I see at most one Miata per month, but as I said, 15-20 MINIs per day. Miatas may be goid cars, but nobody’s buying them, and even the smallest MINI is vastly more practical a car than a Miata, just as any hatchback is.

          • 0 avatar
            mike9o

            I see way more Corvettes than Minis as well. I live in Southern California – Anaheim Hills to be exact.

          • 0 avatar
            Tele Vision

            Corvettes AND Camaros. I saw a MINI on the way home from work today, though, and only saw two Mustangs and one of those Toybarus. And a SAAB 900. Parellel Universe, indeed.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          Anecdotal, but in my suburban Toronto condo garage, there’s at least 3-4 Minis (out of a total 100-120 cars).

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        “if I had to replace my BMW wagon, I would probably buy a Clubman as it is the ONLY decently equipped manual transmission wagon you can buy in the US currently.”

        Yep, that’s about the only reason to consider it, as it looks like the manual’s deathwatch (at least for non-sports/muscle cars) is rapidly approaching. Then again, a Countryman configured right is about 40k, while the 3er wagon is 50k. Equipped similarly. Except you can get the stick in the MINI. And you can no longer get an I6 in the wagon.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I could not care less about the I6. If I had had the choice when I bought my wagon in ’11, it would be a 2.0T. It is simply a far better motor in every way but how it sounds. And I can turn up the stereo and solve that problem (which isn’t a problem to me anyway).

          If BMW would sell me a new 3r wagon with a stick and RWD, I would trade my old one in a heartbeat.

          I would never buy a Countryman or any other stupid wagon on stilts.

    • 0 avatar
      darex

      I see about 15-20 per day, where I live, all generations.

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    The problem may be that most of their potential customers finally figured out that Mini was only it’s name, not it’s description.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Compared to an F-onefiddy it’s still quite mini. I certainly haven’t much interest in anything any smaller – Fiat 500 excepted. But that’s only because I really, really happen to like the 500 for it’s combination of charm and cheap. Makes a nice third or fourth car.

  • avatar
    carguy

    The problem is that this third generation finds itself competing with a number of other hot FWD offerings from VW, Ford, Honda and now even Hyundai. The Mini SUV competes directly against the X1 which brings an up market badge, more power and also probably better resale value.

    Apart from the style, I can’t think of any compelling reasons to buy a Mini.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Mini always looked for “driving enthusiasts” while creating a car for metrosexuals. With their 48 months warranty and service package and no oil dipstick, they totally removed all DIY enthusiasm out of equation. Its so perfect, I want to throw up

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Seems tricky to try to refresh the styling of a car based on a 50 year old style.
    .
    .

  • avatar
    slap

    My daughter wanted to get a MINI for years. I convinced her that she needed a reliable car for a daily driver – something that a MINI isn’t. So she got a Miata instead.

  • avatar
    brn

    The answer is easy.
    – They’re expensive
    – They spend a lot of time in the shop

    If it was just one of those, they might stand a chance. No one wants to pay that much money for a car they can’t drive. Not as a primary vehicle anyway.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    I looked at Mini. The size is about perfect, but I found 2 major faults with it:
    – the reliability is awful, TrueDelta score well over 50 – worse than Jeep Wrangler; and gets worse quickly for older cars
    – stupid joystick – are they trying to cater to a caricature of a gamer that normies have in their heads
    None of these seems to be addressed in the article above.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Add to that, that for many people it is too low, too close to the ground.

      Now, I love to see a slinky sexy woman in a thigh-high skirt exit a Mini or a Fiat 500 but more often than not that beaver shot turns out to be from some hefty gal without an inner-thigh gap.

      And that’s disgusting.

      • 0 avatar
        WalterRohrl

        You’re a classy guy, HDC…I’m sure the “slinky, sexy” ladies are just throwing it your way. /s

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          WalterRohrl, I’ve been married to the love of my life for more than 52 years.

          So I’m old, but I ain’t dead. I can still appreciate a good thing when I see it.

      • 0 avatar
        pdog_phatpat

        This coming from the guy who hails from the country of inbred criminals. Stay classy.

      • 0 avatar
        oleladycarnut

        highdesertcat, I officially appoint you as markf’s mentor. Both of you perpetuate the persona of the knuckle dragging boy who has yet to mature out of adolescence. What’s disgusting is that old fools like you are still in existence.

        • 0 avatar
          markf

          “highdesertcat, I officially appoint you as markf’s mentor. Both of you perpetuate the persona of the knuckle dragging boy who has yet to mature out of adolescence. What’s disgusting is that old fools like you are still in existence”

          Don’t hate cause you are the Sterotype I described driving a Mini…….

    • 0 avatar
      darex

      What are you even talking about? What joystick? You mean second generation MINIs? They were utter crap. Go sit in a 3rd Gen F-series MINI, which, by the way, are extremely reliable now. Your information is out-of-date, across the board!

      Since you’re obviously a scientist, who bases his decisions on hard data, you ought to note that that TrueDelta score for MINI was based on ONE CAR! So, utterly meaningless, in other words. Here’s a real ranking:

      http://d1arsn5g9mfrlq.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/17_vds_chart_1.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I drove Clubman and found many more faults:
      – seats are hard with little padding, and narrow with stiff bolsters that kill your tights
      – tires are hard run-flat that in combination with hard seats and stiff suspension make no pleasure in ride
      – rear seat is bordering unusable. The only one that was worst than that, I found in CX3
      – you sit in it, like in bunker, waiting for frontal enemy attack
      – engine (2L in this case) sounds like it is gurgling.
      – Steering is too light for car that pretends to be sporting and cart-like
      – Clutch pedal is a thin strip.
      – brakes are numb and not assuring at all
      – Premium gasoline
      – where is the oil dipstick? I like DIY

  • avatar
    Gray Raven

    Well, here’s an epiphany for ya….HOW ABOUT MAKING SMALL CARS AGAIN !!! DUH?!

  • avatar
    TW5

    Mini is in the CAFE guillotine. Sure, most Minis are twice as efficient as a fullsize pickup, but Uncle Sam says no more Minis unless they turn into Priuses. I wouldn’t know what to do if I were BMW, either. The brand has so much custom switchgear and internal components that premium pricing and options are about the only way to pay for it all. Now the EPA is taking $2,500-$3,000 out of the pockets to cover the cost of hybrid.

    Not good for Mini.

  • avatar
    Rob

    Isn’t reliability a concern?

    My better half had one against my recommendation, and that thing was at the dealer every few months over the 3.5 years we had it before it finally burst into flames on the tollway.

    Any appeal MINI might have is quickly eclipsed by the nightmare of owning one, and I can’t imagine many repeat customers.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    In Australia we have a Suzuki called the Swift, I don’t ever recalling seeing one in the US. This vehicle is more akin to the original Mini than this outsized Mini.

    The Swift in my eyes even has some of the design of the original Mini and is tiny, unlike the modern BMW made Minis.

    There is even a “Cooper S” Version of the Swift called the Sport with a little 1.4 litre turbo engine. They even have a cult following much like the original Swift and many young guys buy them to modify.

    https://www.carshowroom.com.au/reviews/2018-suzuki-swift-review/

    https://www.motoring.com.au/suzuki-swift-sport-2018-review-110518/

    Maybe the Mini should of been more akin to the original in size and cost, a cheap to buy everyday hack that had some good handling (for it’s time) that put a grin on your face whenever you took it out for a spin, even to the shops.

    But, what we have is this trendy hairdresser chariot for wannabe’s. The only successful hairdresser chariot so far is the Jeep Wrangler, which has been able to maintain it’s style now for decades. I think this will be hard to beat.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Sat in a few Swift (Swifts? Swiftii? What’s the plural?) in Europe not that long ago and really liked the little bugger. Not that it’d ever sell in the US, but a neat little car.

      As for Mini, I think they just ran out of steam. Drove a few in test drives years ago when they first came out and absolutely loved them. But anymore, I just don’t enough in them to garner much interest out of me, and I suspect many other in the buying public feel the same way.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    For the longest time my wife has wanted a MINI. Base on on our family needs etc, a Countryman would work.

    I took her out for a test drive, pre-owned of course, a Countryman S MT. Even she admitted it was seriously disappointing. At the end of the day, it was a heavy, slow, CUV. The available MT is about the only thing that separates the Countryman from every CUV on the planet that is not a Subaru.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Is that a Union Jack in the tail lights?

  • avatar
    Tstag

    MINI dealers should heap pressure on BMW to relaunch the Triumph brand through their network. A successful relaunch would solve many issues. Firstly my wife who loved her 2 ultra reliable MINIs would have had a third except for the fact we had twins. Had BMW produced a range of Triumphs then we could have got me for either a sporty SUV or a 3 series sized estate. Key to sucess would have been to make the interiors have a Triumph feel to them and the exteriors sporty. I myself would be tempted by a new TR6.

    As it is we now have a new Mazda SUV but it’s not the car we really want….

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    ::looks around warily::

    I have three MINIs in my driveway. A 2003 S, a 2009 Clubman S, and a 2012 Countryman S. All manuals.

    The handling of the Countryman, compared to the other two MINIs, is subpar but hey, 6-speed manual makes up for that deficiency.

    Reliability? My wife’s car, the 2003 still soldiers on and on. Need to take care of an oil pan leak but other than that, it’s been very reliable. Two wheel sensors and some warrany work so far. We did buy it used and it came with a very thick stack of work done to it, so maybe all of the problems were taken care of.

    The 2009 Clubman is a trainwreck of reliability. It squeaks, it rattles, the turbo engine consumes oil, and had some electrical issues, but it still is very, very fun to drive. This is my beater car even though it has the lowest miles! It just feels like a bucket of bolts compared to the other two cars.

    The Countryman – we’ve only owned it for 6 months – but it has been very reliable. The handling, as I mentioned, feels subpar compared to the other two cars. Maybe it is still better than your average CUV, but the extra weight and height diminishes the “go-kart” feel. But it is actually a vehicle with a ton of legroom. I’m 6’2″ and don’t have to push the seat all the way back, which is a first for me. Also plenty of room for my 6’6″ son.

    I’m looking to get rid of the Countryman and the Clubman very soon – either a Mustang EB, a Focus ST, or a BMW-something or another. Just needs to be a manual, which is one of two reasons I have three MINIs.

    • 0 avatar
      eliandi

      We were a 2 MINI family, down to one.

      I bought a 07 Cooper S in 2009. Daily drove it, autocrossed it, and tracked it. At the time the local MINI group had a ton of track dogs in it. In the MINI I’ve humbled many cars exceeding multiple times the cars value on the track. Recently my son bought it from me and he autocrosses and daily’s it. Reliability and cost to repair: Not so good.

      Based on loving my car my wife leased a new 2012 Clubman. It was also great fun and was very reliable during her 4 yr lease. At the end of her lease she seriously wanted another MINI, but did not like the new hatches or clubbies. Frankly neither did I.

      So sales has dropped since 2013. The new gen3 began 2014. I think while they seemed to have gained reliability, they missed the mark on the product. I consider the looks of the gen3 far below the gen1 and 2. I also consider the driving dynamics to have dropped based on driving them.

      I think the dealers are right…their success was based on the sporty driving combined into a cool, small, package. They got bigger chasing market share. Electrification will not help (it could be a niche).

      Me, I am seriously thinking about getting a well maintained gen1.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      You’re 6’2 and your son is 6’6 and you’re thinking about a Mustang or a Focus??

      • 0 avatar
        Sub-600

        6’ 6” and “Focus” don’t exactly go together like Bacon & Eggs. I’m 5’ 11” and had a Focus for a loaner once, what a penalty box! 6’ 6”? Good luck.

        • 0 avatar
          Adam Tonge

          6’6″ and Focus go together like lamb and tuna fish.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          Sub-600,
          I’m almost an old fart and 6’1″ US, 185cm globally and I drove my mother’s Focus’es she’s had a couple and I found them to be acceptable.

          I do believe I was at the upper limit of body size for the Focus.

          I not a fan of the Focus, over geared and designed for old ladies.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    mini doesn’t push its customization anymore.

    the only people who know about mini’s customization are the ones old enough to remember when mini first debuted.

    and not a 29 year old non-petrolhead unless their uncle talks cars over thanksgiving

  • avatar
    vehic1

    As long as all Mini models, forever and ever Amen, must pay close styling homage to the Mini Cooper – they are but a niche retro brand, with limited prospects. Fiats are in largely the same predicament; VW has not married itself to the Beetle and lookalikes only.

    • 0 avatar
      darex

      FIAT makes other cars besides the 500, though. They aren’t forced to base future product on 500 styling. MINI is stuck doing so, unless they decide to abandon it, which they ultimately will one day, I expect, but then they might as well just slap a roundel on them, and call it a day. With the upcoming 1-series hatch, it’s really blurring that line already.

  • avatar
    nlinesk8s

    Mini’s are fun-driving, eccentric little cars. Like old British and Italian cars, they inspire a kind of devotion that’s not understandable to the general public.
    They’re also pitched more at enthusiast drivers, and how’s that demographic doing these days?
    And Mini is locked into a certain design and form function that can’t change too much, making them a serious niche car.
    And BMW waited WAY too long to address serious design and reliability issues. Reputation lags reality by a good ten years. A lot of the demographic got burned by the 2nd gen’s issues, and trashed the brand to anyone who would listen.
    Like Scion, I expect Mini will run it’s course and either be absorbed by BMW as a model, or discontinued.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I never understood why Mini was a “brand” – it is a MODEL! They should keep it around with minor updates and just sell it at the local BMW dealership. Same goes for Fiat, just sell the 500 at the Dodge dealership as a Neon. I’m not a finance major but I can’t imagine how the numbers work for having an entire dealership based around what about to 3 or 4 vehicles. Sure this works for a Ferrari dealership because the margin on those things is large enough (I assume), but Mini and Fiat? These are not expensive cars to begin with so how many do you have to sell to make a lot full of them work out? I can only guess that working there is SOOOooooo boring, since the guy down the street at the Toyota dealership is on sale #6 of the day when your Mini salesperson is just finishing his second cup of coffee.

    My wife wanted a Mini really bad, until she sat inside one. I’m sure some people find the retro styled interior “cool” or whatever, but honestly it comes off as massively cheap and down right ugly. I love that they make a small, turbo hatchback – I think the exterior is great, but their reliability is so bad the guy at CarMax told us NOT to buy one. I’ve never had a salesperson bad mouth a product so much.

    • 0 avatar
      Tstag

      Mini was a sub brand of Austin then Morris and then Rover. It can’t be a sub brand of BMW because frankly it’s a U.K. car that wouldn’t wear a German badge well.

      BMW own the Triumph brand and should associate it with that. This way they can sell bigger cars under the Triumph brand name with Mini mopping up the smaller car sales. Sadly that take imagination and BMW aren’t good at that.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Mini’s problem, in a nutshell: $30,000 for a car with a three-banger.

    C’mon, guys – you can’t fool everyone forever.

  • avatar
    jonnyanalog

    Mini has another problem that has plagued them since the first generation and that problem is quality. MINIs were fun to drive, cool to look at, and built like crap. Their poor quality, lack of focus/brand identity, and high price pushed many people away from the brand all together never to return. The new cars, from what I understand, are far better in quality and still maintain their MINI-ness (well SOME of them).
    I own a 2011 R55 Clubman which I have a love/hate relationship with. ITs super fun to drive, looks like nothing else on the road, and fits just about anywhere. However, this car gives me serious heartburn because I cant trust it. There have been several high dollar failures which have left me stranded on 2 occasions. No other car Ive owned has caused this much grief. Would I buy another? You bet I would but, it sure as hell wouldn’t be a Countryman. The Clubman is meh compared to mine but fits my needs the best. The 3 door non-S hatch is my ultimate pick but its highly impractical at this stage in my life.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    1. Mini’s brand identity problem arises because Minis are supposed to be mini in size and price and weight, and they aren’t anymore.

    2. Mini’s alleged electrification strategy is a problem because it requires substantial size, price and weight. Where do you put a big battery in a small car? How do you pay for a costly battery in a car that’s already too expensive for its market? How do you keep weight down when the car’s a porker for is size before you even load in the heavy battery?

    3. Would Mini know how to build a decent electrified car? Their only green offering right now is a plug-in hybrid with a gas engine too dirty to qualify for a carpool-lane sticker, a battery too small for useful all-electric range, and a curb wight too high to feel like a Mini.

    But the answer may be at hand. Parent BMW knows how to build electric cars out of lightweight carbon fiber. Mini knows how make things cute and hip. And both know how to make a car fun to drive. Maybe it’s a matter of will.

    • 0 avatar
      darex

      You speak as though BMW and MINI are akin to HYUNDAI and KIA. There is no independent MINI product design and marketing. Everything is 100% effected by BMW, start-to-finish, with only the pretense of MINI being an independent “British” car company.

  • avatar
    hpycamper

    Some of MINI’s situation might be solved with a long warranty.
    As for the criticism about retro styling, it still looks good. And is anybody criticizing the 911 for looking retro?
    MINIs are a fun to drive alternative.
    More choices=more good.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Went with my daughter to the BMW/Mini dealer. Rode along on her Mini test drive. Yes, the Mini was as fun as a barrel of rum drinking monkeys. Then I suggested she test drive a 135. Yeah, I was sitting sideways in the back seat. She immediately thought the 135 was faster. Therein lies Mini/BMW dealers problem: Why buy a cute car when you can buy a fast car. Maintenance is gonna cost about the same and the BMW may be more reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      Brendon from Canada

      A good point, but it is still relative to the driver. I’m currently driving a 2016 M235i (successor to the 135i), and my wife drives a 2013 JCW; she prefers hers immensely – it’s no where near as fast, but handles quite well, even if you can’t rotate it with your right foot. :-) She certainly gets many more comments about the car (not that an M235i is anything special), but it might be more to do with her lack of similarities to markf’s average mini driver from above!

      I’m just exceptionally glad that we live in a time where these vehicles are available – but then, we’re a save the MT sort of family….

  • avatar
    oleladycarnut

    I remember a while back when there was a call to common decency on TTAC, with moderators stepping up to clean up the room.
    markf, HighDesertCat and now Brendon from Canada have jumped in with boorish, knuckle dragging comments about female MINI drivers. WTF!

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Mini makes about as much sense as a stand alone brand as Smart did … none at all. How do so many well paid people make such obvious mistakes?

    The Mini is a retro niche product much like the “New Bug”. It might make sense as a model in a larger lineup, but is absurd as a brand.

    Bring back the Death Watch series.

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