SAN FRANCISCO -- Executives of Mini of the Americas told its U.S. dealers that sales should return to at least 2013 levels this year after a delayed launch of the Cooper Hardtop knocked Mini sales down 16 percent for 2014.
In 2013, the brand sold 66,502 vehicles in the United States. The nation's 122 Mini dealers are expecting a redesigned Clubman and convertible this year.
Dealer profitability "was a challenge" at 2014's lower volume levels, said Michael Vadasz, general manager of Otto's Imported Cars in Exton, Pa., and chairman of the Mini dealer council. "We were in a changeover year, so our volumes weren't what we were used to. That was one of the main focuses that we were discussing on the council this year."
Mini executives also said the brand would renew its popular Motorer Obsession program that reimburses dealers when they exceed customer expectations.
The program, begun last summer, gives dealers a budget to creatively surprise their customers either at the dealership or away from it.
The surprise needn't be associated with the vehicle. For example, one service manager sent flowers to the funeral of a customer's loved one when the customer called crying and said that she wasn't going to be able to pick up her car because of the death.
"Continuing this program was one of the top five questions that I received," Vadasz said.
Some of Mini's 2014 decline can be laid at the feet of a changeover of its core vehicle, the two-door Cooper Hardtop. The redesigned 2014 hardtop, which is larger than its predecessor, arrived on dealer lots in April, later than expected.
Dealers then suffered a six-week delay in the arrival of the 2015 Cooper, which arrived in mid-September.