Small cars are disappearing at a rapid pace from the US marketplace, but MINI—with its spunky British heritage, line of hatchbacks and unique branding—isn’t among them. Despite trends against small cars that have reconfigured the American market, BMW-owned MINI has been holding its own, with sales so far in 2018 only down by 1% from the year to date.
Indeed, MINI has shown remarkable resilience over a half-century in which it has passed through six different owners and can still be described as iconic. Bold reinvention is one of MINI’s biggest brand attributes.
The most recent reinvention has come under BMW, which relaunched the quintessentially British MINI after acquiring it in 2001 and has multiplied sales since then many times over. BMW has revamped MINI’s engineering and appearance, converting a commoditized, utilitarian economy car into a mark of fun and sophistication. MINI continues to target upscale, millennial city dwellers who see the brand and its cars as a flattering reflection of a personality with a wink.
“People are more focused on ‘the essential’ and I believe that no other car brand is better positioned than MINI to meet this new focus on things that count,” Peter Schwarzenbauer, the BMW board member who was responsible for the brand, told Marketing Week a few years ago.
In the US, MINI has attained repeated relevance in part with its biennial road rally called “MINI Takes the States.” This summer, it attracted more than 3,000 owners to the finale of an event in which a group of hundreds of MINI owners traveled more than 5,000 miles through 15 cities and 14 states. Nine days after departing from the east and west coasts, participants met in Keystone, Colo., for the capper.
“To see more than 3,000 MINI owners and over 1,000 MINI models from across our product line at the [finale] was both amazing and inspiring for me and all the MINI employees on site for the event,” said Thomas Felbermair, vice president of MINI Americas Region, in a press release. MINI also donated funds to support Feeding America.
At the event, MINI also underscored its continuing ability to surprise and delight its fans, by introducing the new MINI John Cooper Works International Orange Edition, a boldly colored, limited-edition version that is arriving at US dealerships this fall.
MINI followed up the road rally initiative with a new “Created in a Countryman” campaign to showcase the spacious and versatile cargo space of the 2019 MINI Countryman, tapping stop-motion animator Kirsten Lepore to create short films literally in the cargo space of the biggest MINI ever built.