Britain could lose its crown as MINI's number one sales market, if the company's US sales staff have their way.
Last year more than 39,000 of the 188,000 MINIs sold worldwide were sold in America, said MINI of North America vice-president Jim McDowell. And in the longer term, he's got one eye on becoming the number one market in the world. "The US has the potential to become the number one retail market for MINI," he said. "The US is on the fast track."
Last year's sales were down on 2005's record year, as global MINI supply was limited by expansion work at the Oxford plant. But this year McDowell said MINI should see record sales again, as capacity has been upped to 240,000 units per year from 200,000, and the launch of the new-generation MINI will give sales a shot in the arm.
At Detroit, the new MINI was shown along with a new version of the old-style cabrio called Sidekick, with high levels of specification. It'll be available from mid-April.
McDowell said it was impossible to predict how many MINIs the US operation could sell. "There will never be enough production available for us to see what the ultimate demand for the car will be." Indeed, supply has always been so far behind demand that MINI has never offered any customer incentives in the five years since it went on sale in the US, he said.
MINI now outsells Porsche, Jaguar and Saab in volume terms in America, he added, while the model mix remains rich - 52% of US sales are for top-of-the-range Cooper S models, compared to a wordwide average of 31% for the Cooper S.
McDowell is confident that any attempt to compete with MINI - Audi's projected A1 model is broadly similar in concept - would not damage MINI's position. "I doubt whether anybody else would use a purpose-designed premium platform."
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