I read the column on the Mini Cooper ("Mini Cooper is hot, but low volume is not") in some editions of the May 27 issue, and I can imagine that the dealers and customers might be screaming for it, despite the 20,000 units that are slated for our shores.
The thing is, once you glut the market with higher volume, where's the demand going to be next year or the year after that? It usually falls off.
Look at the Chrysler PT Cruiser. BMW is doing a highly unusual and intelligent thing by keeping Mini Cooper volume relatively low. Quality control is usually more thorough (and pretty important in the first year a car is on the market).
The second part is that it continues the "cult." The original Mini was never really all that prevalent in North America, and because it was rarely seen, the new one has this surprise effect on people. Like an Elvis sighting, it just doesn't happen that often.
BMW knows that if you keep that phenomenon going, the Mini will be what it once was, but newer and better. More cars just glut the market, and pretty soon, people don't stop and stare anymore.
A lot of manufacturers do that, either intentionally or by the scale of their economies. Think of Porsche, Lamborghini, the BMW M3, and the Dodge Viper. Manufacturers lost money on the cars the first few years, but what a billboard!
It seems to me that BMW is doing it right in more ways than one. Now, if they could just hit the rewind button on the 7 series.