By April, BMW of North America Inc. will select the 70 dealerships that will first receive the Mini.
Those 70 probably will be required to sign separate dealer contracts, similar to the ones BMW required for the X5. Mini dealers will be required to have designated space in their stores for the new brand.
BMW eventually may want more dealers to sell the Mini. But the company first will gauge the success of the first 70, BMW executives said at the make meeting at the NADA convention.
The Mini will go on sale in early 2002, and the company will allocate about 20,000 Minis per year to U.S. dealers.
In other product news, the company told dealers it will offer all-wheel drive on some vehicles starting in 2003.
"There will be limited applications (of awd) in certain areas," said Frank Ursomarso, president of Union Park BMW in Wilmington, Del. "The concern is still performance. We certainly won't be like Audi."
BMW sales in the United States hit 189,423 last year, a 22 percent gain from 1999. U.S. sales for January were up 10 percent from the same month last year, the company reported. BMW expects to sell 300,000 units annually as early as 2006 with the help of the Mini and more sport-utility models.
Meanwhile, BMW and its dealers will work to maintain high customer satisfaction scores.
"Our customer satisfaction level is on top of Mount Everest," said Ursomarso, "but it's difficult to live on top of Mount Everest."