Standalone Mini locations could become a thing of the past
Since relaunching the Mini brand in the US 16 years ago, BMW has insisted that all the dealers of its retro-styled small cars run stand-alone showrooms for the marque. But flagging sales could see that change.
According to Automotive News, the German automaker's North American division is prepared to let its Mini dealers fold their showrooms into BMW locations as a way to cut overheads as sales – which never reached the levels originally expected – continue to slide. "We want to focus on dealer profitability so that they are properly represented in the marketplace," Mini's regional vice president Thomas Felbermair told AN.
That doesn't mean you'll see Mini Coopers parked next to BMW M4s on showroom floors, though. Instead the British marque will, in some cases, be represented in separate wings on the same premises as BMW dealers. The sales and service staff will also remain separate, but the move is designed to help dealers save money.
It's a move which FCA undertook in 2016, letting dealers move their Fiat Studios into the same complex as their Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, and Ram locations. But the move wouldn't help the 31 (out of 127 total) Mini dealers that don't also run BMW locations.
BMW originally projected reaching 100,000 Minis sold in the US each year by 2017. But in the end it only sold 37,359 of them last year, down from a high-water mark of 66,500 in 2013.
That may come down largely to America's thirst for crossovers, which Mini only offers in the subcompact Countryman – a model that's larger than the rest of its lineup, but smaller than most crossovers on the market. But we'd imagine that the relatively high cost for the brand's small vehicles can't be helping, either – even as consumers increasingly detach themselves from the old notion of luxury equating size.