The Mini Cooper is too fun not to talk about.
It's cute; it's a blast to drive; it draws gawkers; it makes parent BMW of North America hip.
BMW hopes that its affordable Mini brand will draw younger consumers who will aspire for other BMW products in the future.
The Cooper went on sale March 22 in the United States, and through April, 2,346 had been sold. Dealers sold 787 Minis in the first 10 days it was on sale. And lists are filling up at the 70 U.S. Mini dealerships, which are fighting for the 20,000 units the company says it will provide for sale here this year.
But I just don't understand the concept of niche vehicles.
Why do automakers bother producing such small volumes when they know that certain vehicles could sell like crazy?
Take the Ford Thunderbird, for example. Ford Division doesn't need a halo vehicle; it needs to sell the heck 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?
Results of Mini USA's anti-broadcast advertising efforts remain to be seen, but I'm sure the brand isn't concerned. Advertising doesn't seem to matter, despite initially low brand awareness. That's because Mini has enough of the right cultlike following: young and old, and a bunch of automotive journalists and analysts.
It turned my stomach to see Coopers on e-Bay when I checked three days after they hit dealerships. I know - free enterprise. But automakers seem to be advancing the capitalist system for all but themselves.
You can reach Staff Reporter Julie Cantwell at 313 446-0374 or [email protected]