Diana T. Kurylko, Automotive News Europe, 24th June, 2009
With so many dealerships closing, Mini USA says it has become a lot easier to find prime sites for new stores. Many of the hand-raisers who were recently awarded one of 17 new Mini franchises were able to become dealers because an ideal location had opened up, said Jim McDowell, Mini USA president.
“A lot of people want to be a Mini dealer, and the challenge has been finding the best location,” he said. “We are now getting really good locations, better than a year ago, which is why we are accepting these new dealers.”
McDowell said the “poster child” for benefiting from another dealer’s troubles is the store being constructed in Seattle. It’s in a downtown location that previously housed a Chevrolet dealership “in the heart of Seattle and close to a university.”
That was good for Mini because the brand usually appeals to younger buyers, McDowell said.
This week Mini announced it is expanding its U.S. dealership count by nearly 20 percent within 18 months. Most of the 17 new stores will be in new markets. Mini currently has 83 dealerships.
McDowell said Mini will need the new stores when sales bounce back. Mini, which last year sold 54,077 vehicles in the United States, next year will add a small crossover based on the Crossman concept car.
There also is speculation that a roadster concept will debut in September at the Frankfurt auto show.
Mini sales were down 21 percent in the first five months compared with a year earlier. McDowell won’t forecast 2009 sales but noted that every month in 2009 has been better than the month before.
All but one of the brand’s current and new dealers are already a Mini or BMW dealer. When the brand identifies a market where it wants a presence, McDowell said, the nearest BMW or Mini dealer is asked to submit an application.
McDowell said more than half of the current dealerships are undergoing a renovation or moving to a new location.
“Many times they are moving to new buildings that were previously other franchises,” he said.
For instance, Flow Mini in Winston-Salem, N.C., recently bought and revamped a Saturn store. The Saturn dealership had to undergo extensive modification to comply with Mini standards.
The following cities will get new dealerships: Birmingham, Ala.; Pensacola, Fla.; Alexandria, Va.; Austin, Texas; Seattle; Fort Myers, Fla.; El Paso, Texas; Ontario, Calif.; Louisville, Ky.; Raleigh, N.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Loveland, Colo.; Madison, Wis.; Mount Laurel, N.J.; Allentown, Pa.; San Diego; and Tempe, Ariz.
[Source: Automotive News Europe/Reuters]
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