I just don't understand the concept behind niche vehicles.
Take the Mini Cooper. It's too fun not to talk about.
It's cute, it's a blast to drive, it draws gawkers and it makes parent BMW of North America hip.
BMW hopes that its affordable Mini brand will draw more and younger consumers to aspirational BMWs.
Buyers will surely come, even without a broadcast advertising scheme this year. Mini has enough of the right cult-like following: young and old, and a bunch of automotive journalists and analysts.
Lists are filling up at the 70 U.S. Mini dealerships, which are fighting for the 20,000 possible units in the first full year. The Cooper went on sale March 22 in the United States, and Mini sold 787 units in 10 days. Spokesman Michael McHale says he doesn't know how many additional U.S. orders Mini has, because several people signed up with more than one dealership.
Why do automakers bother producing such small volumes when they know certain vehicles could sell like crazy? Consider the Ford Thunderbird. Ford Division doesn't need a halo vehicle; it needs to sell the hell out of what it can.
Besides, marketing and other costs per vehicle go down as volume goes up. So if an automaker can produce more, sell more, save money and make even more money, what's the problem here?
It turned my stomach to see Coopers on eBay when I checked three days after they hit dealerships. I know, free enterprise.
Automakers seem to advance the system for anyone but themselves.
You can reach Staff Reporter Julie Cantwell at (313) 446-0374 or