|Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News|
Ten years ago, plenty of naysayers predicted that the Mini brand would be a flash in the pan, lasting a few years and fading away.
The conclusion seemed logical. After all, when Mini was launched on March 22, 2002, it had just one model. Who would buy a small, three-door premium car over and over?
But Mini proved the naysayers wrong.
The British brand -- which debuted during an era of giant SUVs and megamansions -- challenged the notion that small meant cheap.
The brand that emerged over the past decade drew on the Mini Cooper's reputation in the '60s and later as a sporty, exceptional, fun-to-drive vehicle. Credit should be given to Mini's front-wheel-drive configuration, performance enhancements and numerous European rally triumphs decades ago. The victories earned Mini legendary status.
In fact, Mini is as much a British icon as the Volkswagen Beetle is a German icon.
In the states, credit a combination of guerrilla marketing, innovative advertising and product investment for Mini's success. Since Day One, U.S. Mini sales have totaled 429,439 vehicles through February.
Mini's lineup -- championed by parent BMW -- has been expanded to six models including roadsters and all-wheel-drive crossovers.
And if you think Mini's U.S. sales have peaked, think again. Last year was Mini's best U.S. sales year, with 57,511 units, a 26 percent increase from 2010.
As for this year, U.S. sales are likely to break that record -- they're up 33 percent through February.
Happy Birthday, Mini, and continued success creating vehicles that are head-turning and fun to drive.