News : MINI on the boil in China

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Growth of the MINI in China has been exceptional
Growth of the MINI in China has been exceptional

MINI is finding its feet in China after a slow start following its introduction in 2005. Back then it recorded just 430 sales but last year it hit a record 15,500. The British brand is still growing, up 33 per cent to 7000 units in the first four months of this year compared to the same period in 2011.

Friedrich Eichiner, finance chief of MINI parent BMW, said: ‘We originally launched MINI with a high price point as part of a niche premium strategy so sales were slow to begin with. We adjusted this strategy last year and sales have really taken off. We still market the cars as premium models and they are seen in China as chic and fashionable.’

Meanwhile, BMW’s other British brand, Rolls-Royce, has also seen China catch up with the USA as its biggest market in the world. Although, country by country figures have not been broken down, sales of the UK’s famous luxury limo were up 6.5 per cent globally in the first three months of this year to 770.

Both brands are part of a wider BMW Group success story in China where the group has sold 107,000 vehicles in the first four months, up 35 per cent over last year. Its total sales last year hit a record 233,000. Eichiner was in China along with BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer for the opening today of the company’s second plant in Shenyang in the north eastern part of the country, a joint venture with local partner Brilliance Automotive.

The factory will build the X1 small SUV and the new long-wheelbase 3 series, a model specifically designed for the Chinese market. The new Tiexi plant will double BMW’s capacity in Shenyang to 200,000 vehicles a year although Eichiner said the plan is to increase this to 300,000 by the end of next year.

Reithofer was even more bullish, saying that due to the flexible production structure, up to 400,000 will be possible.

[Source: Headline Auto]

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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14 Comments

  1. “MINI is finding its feet in China after a slow start following its introduction in 2005. Back then it recorded just 430 sales”

    So in 2005 was it written off as a total failure? With BMW only selling them there to give kudos to the brand in the UK and Germany?

    No? Thought not. Yet that’s what’s being said about MG in the UK, Similar situation though.

    Although i expect BMW have pumped millions into marketing there.

  2. I guess the problem probably is that the original Mini was unlikely to be remembered (or possibly even heard of) by the newly affluent Chinese car buying public. So they are no doubt baffled by such an overpriced poorly-styled bloated yet unspacious oddity with lots of ‘stick-on kitch’, and a bizarre ‘retro’ interior.

    Never mind, they could always console their offended sensibilities by buying an Etsong Maestro instead!

  3. @1 & @2 – Firstly, the Bini is a hugely successful product in Europe, and most importantly the US. The MG6/Magnette is not. Secondly, for all of your cynical posturing, the Bini’s retro-chic (sic) formula is a very successful one that has been emulated by other manufacturers. Finally, the perception of the product is that of a ‘premium’ European brand, not a salvaged ‘failed’ Uk brand, and a tarnished one at that. So to conclude, not a similar situation to MG/SAIC in anyway, shape or form. Throw away those sour grapes……..

  4. “So to conclude, not a similar situation to MG/SAIC in anyway, shape or form. Throw away those sour grapes……..”

    No sour grapes at all, trouble is you make any slighty anti BMW mini comment and you’re branded as some kind of satanic mini hater.

    But it is similar, the MG range is successful in China, but not in Europe. The mini is successful in Europe but wasn’t initially in China. The situation is the same, the MG sells few units in it’s first year and it’s branded a failure in the UK, yet the Mini sells a few units in it’s first year in China and nothing is said… It just goes to show how long it can take to build up a brand in a new market, if in 8 years time MG are still only selling a few hundred cars in the UK, then it will clearly be a failure. However i think this story illustrates pretty well that just because a model doesn’t sell well in it’s first year it’s not doomed to failure.

    “the Bini’s retro-chic (sic) formula is a very successful one that has been emulated by other manufacturers.”

    Successful yes but hardly emulated by anyone, BMW just emulated the retro-chic of the new Beetle, yeah there is the Fiat 500 that came after the new mini, but arguably they’re both emulating the VW. No doubt i’ll be flamed for daring to suggest the the BMW mini is inspired by the success of the new Beetle, but the fact is the Beetle came first.

  5. @3- Simon Hodgetts – I’m not sure what you mean by ‘cynical posturing’- the term ‘posture’ suggests that I am exaggerating my dislike for the BMW MINI, when in truth my distaste for it is deeply ingrained, rather than a Clarksonian knee-jerk bile-spewing purely for effect!

    Underneath that tacky exterior is a very good car- and that is the shame of it. I am not against retro (if done very well indeed- and it really needs to be), but retro for retro’s sake, and poorly executed at that, is the problem here. FIAT, with its latest 500, shows how it should be done- that car is very well styled, has a great interior that is shamelessly ‘old 500’, yet so much better done than the messy MINI one, is good value for money (which was the original’s ‘raison d’etre- as with the original Mini), and brings something genuinely fresh to the table- in the shape of the wonderful AIR engine. And it was not the first attempt to resurrect the spirit of the old 500- that, believe it or not, belongs to the car that became the Daewoo Matiz! And thank God they didn’t put a 500 badge on that!

    The Audi A2 would have been a better inspiration for the BMW MINI- I’ve driven one, and although flawed (it was a diesel- which was very easy in that car to over-rev, and the handling was compromised by over-active ESP, and was too expensive). If BMW could have come up with a really well packaged car that was fun to drive, good value for money (not realistic for it to have been as cheap as the original MINI), fresh, and compact, and not groaning with kitchy details and ‘stick-on personalisation’ (leave that for the owners- if they really must), then they would have had a winner.

    At least the BMW MINI factory is good for employment- I just worry what will happen when BMW finally run out of idea for that franchise- there are only so many derivatives that they can come up with- none of them particularly imaginative.

  6. Well im going to plonk my stave in the ground as well,i dont like the mini at all,it gets ponced up and ever cynically marketed by those clever BMW people because they take us for tossers and rightly so,£23k and above and you call it premium?have a word with yourself,the original was pure,cheap motoring for the masses and BMW could have reinvented the wheel if they did that,ok it sells-to hairdressers and estate agents mainly they are not even that reliable.Im all for oxford plant building them and going through the export gate(and please dont stop)the chinese have different tastes perhaps they prefer thier own rip-off of the mini,different strokes for different folks.Gangsters in england drive 3 series,in bulgaria 7 series, a lot of products in europe are sucessful just ask the greeks,everyone is gonna want china soon anyway europe is over.

  7. I don’t state any particular loyalty, for either BMW or for the Bini. I personally don’t like the car, the dilution of the Mini concept, or what it stands for – especially the ‘Baxi’ which is an abomination.

    What I do stand by is that the constant criticism on here of a brand that, rightly or wrongly, is doing rather well in Western Europe, the US, India and is now making inroads into the Pacific Rim market. Unlike MG / SAIC which, apart from China, has little or no presence in the UK, none whatsoever in the US and little in Europe. The cars simply do not set the market-place alight – evident by the woeful sales outside of China, and luke-warm reviews.

    You simply cannot compare the 2 marques on anything like a level playing field.

    It’s always going to be an emotive issue – I’ve owned a BL Mini myself, and would happily have another – but bringing back good ole’ Blighty-designed city cars is simply never going to happen. The market right now wants cars like the Bini, and until manufacturers offer something different, or better, that is what the average disinterested car buyer will hanker after. And if there’s one thing BMW does exceptionally well it’s aspirational vehicles. In the Bini it offers a Mini-style retro car which appeals to those who have bought into that brand’s ideals – it has nothing as much now to do with the original BMC Mini concept as the Ford Ka has with the Ford Anglia.

  8. “What I do stand by is that the constant criticism on here”

    Where in my original post did i make a single criticism of the BMW Mini? I simply highlighted the point that while MG makes poor sales in year 1, that they’re written off as a failure. However the BMW Mini does the same in China and nothing such is said. 7 years later it’s doing fine.

    Frankly it’s almost not worth commenting on Mini related posts any more unless you hop up and down singing it’s praises someone will jump on you as making a criticism.

    Personally i’m indifferent about the current generation Mini, i like the first generation (BMW) Mini, although the fuel economy of the petrol models was poor (someone will now jump on here flaming me about how they think 35mpg is great from a small car) i liked the design. The current ones have become more bloated and mundane though. Would i turn one down? No. Would i go out of my way to buy one? No i wouldn’t either.

    “Unlike MG / SAIC which, apart from China, has little or no presence in the UK, none whatsoever in the US and little in Europe.”

    Well that’s the Point, Mini had the opposite, a presence in the US and Europe, but none in China a nation of 4 billion people (that’s more than the US and Europe put together). MG has a presence in China, but little or none in the rest of the world. After the first year of poor sales, no one said the Mini was a failure in China. BMW clearly pumped cash into marketing the mini in China, and now sales are coming through, SAIC haven’t put much into marketing in the UK, if they did then i expect we might see the same results as BMW. The thing about the mini being a ‘premium’ product is purely down to marketing, in reality it’s no better made than say a Fiesta, but Ford don’t market the Fiesta in the same way as BMW do the Mini.

  9. The Ford Ka has everything to do with the Ford Anglia. Of course, the Ka is a hatch and the Anglia was not (but then, the hatchback as a concept didn’t really exist- the Renault 4 was referred to at that time as an estate in the motoring press). The Ka is a trendy, fairly basic, entry-level car at a low price- as was the Anglia. If anything, the 105E was probably more stylish than the current Ka, and the Mk1 Ka even used the Anglia engine!

    Nobody’s talking about bringing back the old Mini- indeed, that car lasted far too long- and its charm was wearing a bit thin towards the end. But, for crying out loud, clearly BMW posess some of the best chassis engineers in the business, but the product of their efforts is lazy and uninspiring, not to mention grossly overpriced. The MINI should be radical, daring, and genuinely chic, rather than being like one of those so-called ‘designer’ handbags modelled by the likes of ‘Posh Spice’- that, instead of being beautifully designed and iconic, instead have the maker’s brand name written large across it in order to communicate that it is expensive. Genuinely classy products do not need to shout, they are understated, but you know that they are a premium product, such as a Saville Row suit. MINI’s, on the other hand, being a rather poor pastiche of the real thing, have little to say, but they say it far too loudly. And that makes them more vulgar than chic.

    Mini on the boil? A boil is an painful, unwelcome pus-filled, eruption…

  10. The Chinese Job!
    “Chinese master wheelman Han Yue last week managed to shave off an incredible 7cm from the record, drifting into a space of just 15 cm (5.91 in) longer than his vehicle during an attempt at the launch in Beijing of a new special edition of the MINI called The Chinese Job”

  11. I’ve even seen a video of a BMW MINI on the streets of Pyongyang! Can’t imagine how it got there. Search youtube for “north korean traffic lady”.

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