BMW dealers who also carry the Mini brand are being asked to do more to keep the brands apart.
When negotiating new contracts with dealers, BMW is asking them to invest more in showroom infrastructure for Mini, BMW spokesman Markus Sagemann said.
Said Kay Segler, Mini’s head of brand management, “We don’t want every BMW dealer to carry Mini. We want them to be the best Mini dealers they can be.”
BMW may reduce by about one-third its Mini dealers in Germany when its dealer contracts end in 2008, said Ludwig Willisch, head of BMW’s German distribution organization.
He said BMW “will evaluate dealers that sell 20, 30 or 40 units annually” to determine whether it makes business sense for them to continue with the brand.
“We could then come to the conclusion that 200 dealers are better than 300,” he said.
Sagemann said BMW and Mini target different customers, so the group is trying to further separate Mini’s identity from BMW’s for “communication reasons.”
Many BMW dealers have separate showrooms – some on different sites – for the Mini brand. Many BMW-Mini dealerships also have dedicated Mini sales personnel.
BMW denies that it is pursuing a policy of creating a separate dealership network for Mini, but it doesn’t oppose stand-alone showrooms.
Last December, BMW opened its largest Mini-only dealership, investing E2.5 million in the showroom in London’s Park Lane.
Segler won’t say how many of Mini’s 1,500 sales outlets in 70 markets are stand alone or how many independent outlets it wants, but he said “communicating a brand-specific experience at the point of sale is a key success factor” for Mini.
Mini’s global first-quarter sales rose 10.3 percent to 52,694 cars compared with the same period last year.
BMW expanded the Mini product line last year by adding a convertible version of the entry-premium car.
The company won’t discuss future products, but Colin Couchman, an analyst at Global Insight in London, said it is likely Mini will add a wagon that could resemble the Mini Traveller made by Morris starting in the 1960s.