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Mini might be making big changes to its dealer network, report says

The brand could, for the first time, allow non-BMW dealers to open Mini dealerships.

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Mini's looking at opening its franchise agreement up to non-BMW dealers for the first time.

Andrew Hoyle/Roadshow

Ever since Mini relaunched in the US, way back in at the turn of the century, if you went to a dealer to buy one, that dealer was also a BMW dealer. That makes sense, right? Mini is owned by BMW, and Mini's part numbers use BMW's format and so on.

That could be about to change if the new head of Mini's North American arm has anything to say about it. Mini North American CEO Michael Peyton, formerly of Harley-Davidson and Ford, has expressed interest in opening dealer franchise opportunities to non-BMW dealers, according to a report Monday by Automotive News.

Why is this a big deal, and what would it mean for the company? Well, it would allow Mini NA to select the best possible candidate to open a dealership in a given area, and not just be stuck with whoever owns the local BMW franchise. This means that if the local BMW dealer wasn't performing well and had low feedback from customer surveys, corporate could look elsewhere.

"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. "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."

What does this mean for customers? Well, it could be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, a prospective buyer or a parts and service customer could benefit from a better customer service experience from a more engaged dealership staff. On the other, parts and service could be tricky, because it can take a while to adapt to a new brand's infrastructure.

But wait, as they say, there's more.

Peyton said he's also interested in thinning out the Mini dealer network in areas that are overserved; this would involve closing some stores, but it would also include Mini dealerships sharing real estate with BMW dealers as part of an agreement with BMW North America, especially in places that lack a standalone Mini dealer already.

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