It’s no secret that MINI sales have not been doing great recently. Apart from the surprisingly popular Cooper SE model, which already has 78,000 orders waiting for delivery, the MINI range hasn’t been a top-seller for the BMW Group, especially in the US. Thus, the Germans and the Brits have started looking for solutions and it seems like one of them would be to allow non-BMW dealers to sell MINI cars.
MINI USA has a new boss and Michael Peyton is not afraid to try out new things. He has been a high-ranking executive at Ford and Harley-Davidson over the years and he might have a better perspective over how cars are being sold in the US compared to his predecessors. Nevertheless, a final decision hasn’t been made just yet but this is one of the possibilities the company is looking into right now.
“For markets where Mini needs to perform better, I’ve got to make sure I’m looking at who the right operator is, regardless of what franchise they have,” Peyton told Automotive News in his first media interview during an event last week at BMW’s U.S. manufacturing plant. “If it’s the BMW dealer that’s the best dealer in the area, fantastic. But if the best dealer is with another brand, then it’s OK to look at them as a potential operator.”
The problem is, few dealers will be interested in selling Minis in the first place. Eight MINI dealerships have already closed shop this year, following a rather slow year while half of the remaining dealerships will most likely lose money this year. Even so, Peyton is focused on turning things around: “We need to make sure that we look at where the customers are, where the opportunities are in the market and to make sure that the network is properly structured,” he said. “I’m focused on the throughput of the stores.”
According to him, an issue dealers are facing is the association of the MINI brand with BMW, something customers don’t really care about: “A lot of Mini customers don’t necessarily want anything to do with BMW. So the importance of separating the consumer experience and making sure we have those exclusive touch points — that’s something that has been a learning.” This separation would be interesting to watch and hopefully it will be the key to returning MINI on a growing trend.