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Amid auto travail, Mini brand is booming

Automotive News reports on how Mini is selling more cars while other brands are down.

Automotive News

There's a brand that is raising the price of its newest redesigned vehicle by nearly 10 percent, adding dealerships and boosting unit sales by more than 30 percent year-to-date.

No, it's not fiction or the daydreams of a stress-crazed car executive. Mini--the brand BMW AG management almost didn't bring to the United States--is defying the economic turmoil and the odds.

Mini USA sales topped 50,000 in November, giving the small sporty car brand a year-to-date increase of 31.3 percent.

What's driving sales? Gasoline prices and an expanded range with the Clubman, a true four-seat car that's still diminutive enough to be called a Mini, says Mini's U.S. brand chief Jim McDowell, a man with a gregarious laugh whose clothing taste runs to wild Hawaiian shirts or an all-black outfit.

McDowell says that rising gasoline prices last summer resulted in car buyers "having broader shopping lists then they usually had."

With the U.S. market in "hyperdemand" for Minis last summer, Mini USA appealed to Europe for a bigger allocation of cars, and supply was shifted from slower markets, says McDowell.

"Because there was so much demand we are on the path we had expected to be on in 2009 or 2010," he says.

Record sales are expected with the addition of the next-generation Mini convertibles in March. Mini's staying power led to a large price increase on those models. The base Mini Cooper Convertible will sell for $24,500, up from $22,600, and the Cooper S convertible jumps to $27,450, from $26,050. Prices include shipping.

Mini will add a crossover in 2010, based on the concept vehicle that debuted at the Paris auto show this fall.

(Source: Automotive News)