GREER, S.C. — With one exception, all of Mini's 121 U.S. dealers are also BMW franchisees, reflecting BMW's desire to keep its small-car brand within the family.
That could change now.
Mini's new Americas boss, Michael Peyton, intends to take a more brand-agnostic approach with the line and says he is open to bringing non-BMW retailers into the house.
"There's a new sheriff in town," proclaimed Peyton, 51, a former Ford and Harley-Davidson exec who took over as vice president of Mini of the Americas in July.
When looking to expand, or replace an underperforming dealership, Peyton said he will seek the "best operator" in the market. A "handful" of non-BMW dealers have expressed interest in Mini franchises, he said.
"For markets where Mini needs to perform better, I've got to make sure I'm looking at who the right operator is, regardless of what franchise they have," Peyton told Automotive News in his first media interview during an event last week at BMW's U.S. manufacturing plant. "If it's the BMW dealer that's the best dealer in the area, fantastic. But if the best dealer is with another brand, then it's OK to look at them as a potential operator."
It remains to be seen how interested the top performers in any given market might be in taking on a struggling franchise that sells subcompact cars in crossover-obsessed America.
Mini sales peaked at 66,502 in 2013. The company declared that year that it would sell more
than 100,000 vehicles a year here by 2020. But last year, U.S. sales fell 7.3 percent to 43,684 vehicles, according to the Automotive News Data Center. So far this year, Mini delivered 30,715 vehicles, down 18 percent from a year ago.
Anemic sales have hammered dealer income statements. Nearly half of Mini dealerships are losing money this year, Peyton said, and eight Mini dealerships have closed so far in 2019.