Peterson’s lawyer, Dennis Murrell, told Automotive News that Peterson decided to terminate his Mini franchise shortly before the store closed. Murrell said that Peterson, who owns Mercedes-Benz stores and didn’t have an option to transition Mini into a BMW store, had “no viable way to keep it open.”
According to the lawsuit, “Peterson Motorcars is left with a dealership that is not financially viable and an unusable single purpose facility in which he has invested millions of dollars.”
The lawsuit also alleges that BMW interfered with Mini of Louisville employees “in an attempt to force Peterson Motorcars to terminate its dealership on terms favorable to BMW.”
Peterson and Mini of Louisville seek monetary and punitive damages, plus costs and attorney fees.
Last year, BMW of North America agreed to let Mini dealers downsize their stores or move operations into their BMW locations to help defray operating costs and real estate overhead by sharing backroom expenses. Dealers would be expected to differentiate the brands in the consolidated location, with Mini-branded showrooms and dedicated sales and service employees.
Thomas Felbermair, outgoing vice president of Mini of the Americas, told Automotive News last year that “we want to focus on dealer profitability so that they are properly represented in the marketplace.”
But like Peterson, a Mini dealer since 2010, not every Mini dealer is a BMW dealer.
As of November, Mini had 31 retailers who were not also BMW dealers. Nearly 30 dealers have either expressed interest in consolidating their Mini store into their BMW location or have begun the process. Mini currently has 122 dealerships in the U.S.
The lawsuit says integration essentially reversed the requirement for standalone Mini stores, which cost dealers millions of dollars to build. Peterson and Mini of Louisville contend Mini dealerships that want to combine with a non-BMW brand must make “customer-facing activity” exclusive to Mini, and another brand can’t be “between the Mini sales and service experience.”
That was impossible for Peterson’s Mercedes-Benz stores, Murrell said.
Mini spokesman Andrew Cutler, however, said the brand currently is not allowing its retailers to integrate into non-BMW stores.