Posted by: David Welch on September 1, 2009
Every luxury brand eventually faces a quandary. Growth is good but how much is too much? If you sell too many, then the brand becomes ubiquitous and loses its exclusivity. Mini isn’t at risk of selling to the point where it becomes common. Not yet. But the way parent BMW is growing it, the question is valid. OK, Mini is not a luxury brand in the traditional sense, but when a company sells subcompacts at prices that can top $40,000 then it is luxury among its peers. The brand also thrives on its exclusive nature. Mini owners tend to be individualists and even a bit eccentric, says Mini USA Vice President Jim McDowell.
Before the car market tanked this year, Mini sales were soaring. The brand grew 29% last year to 54,000, which is more than double its first year back in the U.S. in 2002.
First they added a convertible, then the stretched Clubman. A crossover suv (it’s only a few inches taller than a Clubman) is on the way in early 2011, McDowell says. Mini is also looking at a sporty, two-seat hatch that looks like the brand’s answer to an Audi TT. Sources say it’s all but a done deal that the coupe is coming.
As a Mini owner myself, I can tell you that I don’t want to see these cars coming around every bend like, say, a Ford F-150 or Toyota Camry. But McDowell says he thinks the brand could easily grow from its current rate of about 50,000 cars a year to 80,000 or more without doing any damage. If he added a few niche cars beyond the crossover suv that is on the drawing board, he thinks Mini could surpass 100,000 without giving away its exclusivity. But getting upwards of 160,000 could be problematic, he says.
To that raises another question? If Mini has its namesake car, a stretch, a convertible and a crossover and coupe on the way, what’s next? McDowell says he’d love to bring back a modern interpretation of the Mini Moke. See the original Moke above. It would be the fun but potentially gangly offspring of a Mini and a Jeep Wrangler. Mini is seriously looking at it. Let us know what you think.