It involves distancing the brand from BMW.
Mini has bee busy of late. In the past year alone, the company introduced an all-new electric model dubbed the Cooper SE, started to offer a new dual-clutch transmission and upped the output of its Clubman and Countryman John Cooper Works models to 301 horsepower. Mini is also gearing up to reveal its most hardcore model ever, a new John Cooper Works GP. This is an exciting time for Mini but despite the brand celebrating its 10 millionth car produced, the company is struggling in the US and new Vice President, Michael Peyton has some ideas on how to improve sales.
Speaking to Automotive News, Peyton said he would be open to introducing new Mini dealerships that are independent of BMW. As of now, 120 of Mini's 121 US dealerships also run a BMW franchise but Peyton, a former Ford and Harley Davidson executive said: "There's a new sheriff in town."
"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 explained. "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."
According to Petyon, several non-BMW franchises have already expressed interest in opening a Mini showroom. Mini hit its peak sales in the US back in 2013, selling 66,502 cars. Sales have slumped since then, with just 43,684 cars sold in 2018 and just over 30,000 delivered in 2019. This slump has had a negative impact on the dealerships, 50 percent of which have lost money in 2019 and eight of which have closed completely.
"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," Peyton said, explaining his plan to add Mini stores in underserved areas and eliminate ones in overcrowded markets. "I'm focused on the throughput of the stores." For some stores, this will involve sharing space with BMW to save on operating costs while other showrooms will distance themselves from the BMW brand.
"A lot of Mini customers don't necessarily want anything to do with BMW," Peyton said. "So the importance of separating the consumer experience and making sure we have those exclusive touchpoints - that's something that has been a learning." With a ton of new products incoming, Peyton believes Mini will be "in tune with what the customers are looking for. We need to make sure we're in the crossover space, certainly for the US market, with an all-electric vehicle. We want to build upon what we're learning with the SE." Peyton could be hinting at a future model, like an electric Countryman, which could certainly be appealing in the crossover-obsessed US market.