Mini USA appoints new heads of sales and marketing

Tom Salkowsky, 47, becomes department head of sales for Mini USA.
UPDATED: 5/3/17 2:23 pm ET - adds details

Mini USA, battling a 12 percent decline in demand this year, has recalled a veteran executive from Germany to steer U.S. sales operations for BMW’s small-car brand.

Tom Salkowsky, 47, on Tuesday was named department head of sales for Mini USA, leading the company’s sales, volume planning and distribution operations. He succeeds Mark Orlando, who will transition to a new role within the BMW Group to be announced at a later date.

The move came on the day Mini announced a 27 percent plunge in April sales to 3,481 vehicles. Through the first four months of the year, U.S. deliveries have fallen 12 percent to 13,732, following an 11 percent drop last year.

Sales of Mini’s Cooper S subcompact car have been hurt by a consumer shift to bigger vehicles amid low gasoline prices. A redesigned and larger Countryman crossover went on sale in March.

In addition to Salkowsky’s appointment, Mini also named a new leader of U.S. marketing.

Patrick McKenna, 47, becomes department head of Mini brand communications for Mini USA, leading the company’s brand positioning, long-term strategy development and all consumer communications and content. He succeeds Tom Noble, who left the company in February. McKenna had been handling Noble’s marketing duties on an interim basis since that departure.

The appointments, both effective immediately, mean there are new leaders in Mini USA’s top two positions under chief Thomas Felbermair. Both Salkowsky and McKenna will report directly to Felbermair, who became vice president of Mini Region Americas a year ago.

Mini’s annual sales in the U.S. have fallen after hitting a peak of 66,502 in 2013. Mini sold 52,030 vehicles last year in the U.S., about three-quarters of them Cooper S models.

Felbermair told Automotive News last month that the launch of the redesigned Countryman should help the brand increase its overall sales in 2017. But he doesn’t expect Mini to be able to rival its 2013 sales record this year. That could happen down the road, Mini executives say, when Mini brings out its promised fifth volume model: an all-electric vehicle due in late 2019.

Sales of the Countryman, Mini’s largest vehicle, rose 6.3 percent in March but slid 24 percent in April. Mini continues to ramp up production volume of the redesigned Countryman and is thus still filling the inventory pipeline to dealerships for the 2017 model, a spokesman said.

Salkowsky, a 21-year employee of the BMW Group, most recently was department head of marketing steering for Mini at BMW Group headquarters in Munich. He previously headed Mini’s U.S. marketing from 2010 to 2014.

“We’re happy to welcome Tom back to the U.S. and are confident that his global perspective combined with his marketing expertise will be instrumental in supporting our sales network and further strengthening the Mini USA brand,” Felbermair said in a statement.

Patrick McKenna began working with BMW Group in 1993 as an agency employee and joined the company in-house in 1997.

McKenna began working with BMW Group in 1993 as an agency employee and joined the company in-house in 1997. He most recently was department head for product planning and aftersales, a position held since 2010. He will maintain that role on an interim basis until a successor is announced.

Said Felbermair: “His background in marketing communication and events on both the agency side and with BMW, coupled with his MINI product knowledge provide a solid foundation to help lead the brand on a fresh approach that remains grounded in our heritage.”

You can reach Amy Wilson at awilson@crain.com -- Follow Amy on Twitter: @theamywilson

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