Mini to Adjust Shocks, Engine After Complaints

This comes via “dco43054” at MINI2 and Jeff Green at Bloomberg News:

Detroit, May 7 — Bayerische Motoren Werke AG's Mini brand, the fourth-worst performer in the 2003 quality survey by J.D. Power & Associates, is adding heavier oil to its shock absorbers to create a smoother ride and reprogramming the engines to prevent stalling in an effort to address customer complaints.

The company, which sold 24,590 Minis in the U.S. last year, also is sending special coffee mugs to customers after owners complained that many cups won't fit in holders built into the car, said Jack Pitney, general manager for the Mini brand in the U.S.

The Mini was fourth worst among 37 vehicle brands ranked by the number of problems in the first three months of ownership, according to a survey by J.D. Power. The score of 166 problems per 100 cars was higher than the industry average of 133 and meant the BMW group score slipped to 124 from 116 last year.


p>”We're not happy with the results but we're taking action,'' Pitney said in an interview at the Automotive Press Association lunch in Detroit.

The top complaint among consumers was about the Mini's cup holder, followed by complaints that the engine hesitates or stalls, according to J.D. Power. Owners also complained about a noisy fan motor, wind noise and an uncomfortable ride, the survey found. The 17-year-old survey is watched by automakers because it can influence consumer purchases.

Pitney said he expects to sell 25,000 to 30,000 Minis in the U.S. this year. BMW, known for luxury vehicles, starts Mini prices at $16,975 and wants the cars to attract buyers who haven't previously bought the automaker's models. About 86 percent of Mini buyers hadn't purchased a BMW before, Pitney said. The Mini Cooper is intended to be the first of several models for the brand.

BMW, which has sold 11,304 Mini cars through April, plans to limit sales to about same as in 2002 to keep demand high, Pitney said. The short supply contributes to an Automobile Lease Guide estimate that 2002 Minis will retain about 61 percent of their value after three years, the highest rate for any U.S. vehicle from the model year.

The original Mini debuted in 1959 in the U.K. and was the inspiration for the naming of the miniskirt, according to BMW. The tiny car was fashionable in the U.K. during the 1960s, attracting buyers such as the Beatles' Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the automaker said. About 10,000 Minis were sold in the U.S. from 1960 until 1967.

I'm really not sure what to make of this. Does anyone from MIINUSA want to alleviate my concerns about the MINI going soft due to these changes? It goes without saying that one of the biggest reasons there is such a cult following for this car is the unbelievable level of performance at such a low price. If you erode that performance you'll loose more than just a portion of your cult following – you lose what made the car special in the first place.

  • steve

    I like the suspension as is (MC with SS+ and 15 inch wheels), don't use the cupholders for cups, and my car doesn't stall (although I know of others that do).. I think it would be good for MINI to branch out to other variants of the Cooper, but I really hope they keep the performance, price, and looks, and solid feel of the current cars..

  • Eric

    I honestly can't comment about the MINI's suspension, I've never driven one, but BMW certainly must do something about this. The J.D. Power survey is a very big deal, and coming in fourth from last is just pathetic. That said, complaining about the cupholder is just silly. Does anybody know how many owners actually complained about the ride? Also, do you really think making the ride a bit “smoother” will make the MINI go soft?

  • mike

    Lets see. You should test drive it, think about it, read about it,and re-test drive it and if its what you what buy it. I would love a Enzo so should I complain about its price? The Mini is a wonderful car that no US automaker can touch. As for the cup holder, I “drink” at home and “motor” in my Mini.

  • chris

    no matter what comes out later, MINI should drop their price a little bit. there are nothing you can do in 3 month which is before 04 models and make it “better”. It is impossible to make any major changes, but i think MINI would make some “Smart” changes like the way they design the car. there are so many new models coming out and have much more power than MINIs but with not very high price. MINI has low starting price, but toooooo expensive on some of the options. BMW should think to make better sale based on a better price. Complains: forget it! People would look at J.D Power when they buy Toyota. or may be some of American cars. For MINI there are nothing you can do to stop people motoring!!

  • Donna

    Who cares about the darn cupholder? I can't believe that is even a valid customer complaint…really!

  • Bill Lawrence

    People who complain about cupholders and stiff ride to JD Powers should stick to buying Toyota Camry's.

    The MINI is popular and successful because it breaks the mold of the “appliance car”.

    I'll keep my SS+, stiff, curve eating ride!! If you want a smoother ride in your MINI, then you just dont get it. Find something else.

    As far as cupholders go, put down your drink and drive the dogone car!

    The MINI is inexpensive enough. I would have paid more for mine. If it were any cheaper, then folks would be buying it for it's price and not it's fun driving characteristics. Then there would be more complaints from the non-enthusiasts about cup holders and stiff ride and it would be more likely that BMW would be compelled to water down the MINI for non-Motorers.

    To heck with JD Powers…leave my MINI alone!!

  • Tom F.

    I think 1.7 complaints for a totally new model is acceptable..and its about my experience.

    As for the harsh ride, how much of that is because MINIUSA pushed the MCS sport package with 17″ wheels that degrade both ride and performance. It would have been just as much a profit item to upgrade from the stock MCS wheels to the 16″ premium ones- the R90 if I recall correctly, and not further impact the ride.

  • Larry Meucii

    I have a mini 2003 S, and it's just right! Ride…Price…Cup holders… If some one needs to complain…then buy a Honda. please Oh please leave our mini like it is ……Very Fun To Drive!!!!!

  • jeeves

    Wait a tic! North American car of the year. American Automobile Dealers Association 2002 resale value of 117%. Lease rate resale value of 61% at 3 years, projected by the lease ratings group. “Faster thru the cones than anything labrogini or porche currently produce.” Car and Driver review Feb. 02. And J.D. Power survey people can't see past the cup holder!?!?! How sad for them.

  • dot-scott

    i agree (of course). i went from 8 years of 4-door family sedan, and picked up my MCS on friday. the ride is not too stiff for me by far! i'm absolutely enthralled by the performance of the little car, as well as the value i feel i received for the dollar. just so they make the ride softer on the base suspension, and leave the sport suspension as it is.

  • JT

    I am eagerly waiting for my MCS to arrive in July. I currently drive a Mazda Miata (gotta get a bigger car with a second child on the way:-)).

    When I test drove the Mini, I thought the ride was comparable to what I drive now. Sure it hunts around a bit on rough pavement; I expected that with 17″ wheels and rubberband profile tires.

    As far as the cupholder is concerned, I'm not driving a minivan.

    (Maybe the complainers are a group of people running against the Mini in autocrosses/Solo II who want to sabotage the performance so they have a better chance to win…)

  • John McQuown
    1. JDPowers did what it's supposed to do: compile consumer reactions in a consistent manner. The problem is that MINI Cooper buyers have much higher expectations from their purchases than do other brands' buyers. To a MC owner, a “stiff” ride is a comment or compliment, not a complaint. To JDPowers, it scores as a complaint.
    2. JDPowers “bad” rap can affect the initial resale value of the MINI in the short run, until Americans learn to expect more motoring and less living room sofas from their automobiles.
    3. It is discouraging that BMW is taking JDPower-driven alterations. They should have been stiffer — like the MINI's suspension — about downgrading performance in favor of soft rides.
    4. BMW should be charging more to buyers who want soft, cushy, cute cars and holding (or lowering) prices to buyers who will sustain and advance the MINI's reputation by motoring, by competitive performance, and by enthusiasm. “Let's motor :-)”
  • vlm

    Fix the stalling engine and leave the rest the same, is all I have to say–and I drive some really rotten roads these days. As others have said, this survey just goes to show that the MINI is not for everyone.

  • “People who complain about cupholders and stiff ride to JD Powers should stick to buying Toyota Camry's.”

    Here Here! Keep the stiff suspension, that's how a sports car drives.

  • Linda

    I love the sporty-ride feel of our Mini! But I've noticed, very recently, too, that our engine seems to WANT to stall… and here I was starting to suspect the new exhaust, Jim had installed! Ha! Shows what I know! 🙂

  • Linda

    FYI for 2002 MINI Owners: I just learned from a friend who owns a 2002 Mini that she had her seat levers “upgraded” at no cost to owner, because of a tendency for side levers on both front seats to stick. Bill Jacobs BMW in Naperville, confirmed this and stated that owners need only to call to schedule the no-cost replacement upgrade… just thought I'd post in case this is new news.

  • Yup… I got mine done last summer. However it's only for people with the original seat levers (they didn't say “press” on them).

  • Donna

    They just did mine too, at my 10k service appt. I didn't even ask, they just did it.

  • baz

    Dont change the mini, its perfect! In Europe (where Im from) they sell the Mini one – a detuned version of the cooper. Identical, except for the suspension which is a bit softer, it only gets 90bhp from the same engine, and there is no white or black roof/mirrors/wheels option, and is obviously cheaper. This is what BMW should sell to those who want to “softer” cheaper version. Leave the Cooper alone. Its a drivers car. Cup holders? Buy a Hyundai.

  • RedBackFur

    I have no problem with the cup holders, (I use the front for my phone, and the rear for my water bottle). However, I actually received the Questionaire from J.D. Powers. I had giving high satisfaction ratings for my MINI, but had to be honest about the things replaced since I took posession in July, 2003.

    I had to replace the Throtle Body motor, the ECU computer, the Navigation System, the steering position sensor, the Seat levers, the Rear bonnet latch (rattles), Have the CVT Reprogrammed because of lurching/lunging, The leather coming undone from the shifter (Bad on delivery), and a few other problems which I have forgotten. So satisfied? Yes. (I have 24,800 miles on it now), but concerned about quality control? Yes. I didn't expect my MINI to be a Toyota Camery. This is why I went with the Extended Service Contract, but one should expect less problems out of the gate.

  • Norman Koenig

    I didn't buy the Mini for the cupholders, and if the engine stalls you might want to invest in driving lessons. This car is fantastic,words cannot discribe. Norm

  • Debra Farnum

    I live in Toronto and have a 2002 Cooper S and nowhere to go. After more than a dozen visits to the dealer I am still left driving a car that hesitates and stalls. The clutch has been replaced twice, the steering column has been replaced, the cooling fan was replaced, one of the exhausts have been replaced, the window motor also replaced, the air bag light sensors replaced, the wiper motor replaced, the back hatch latch replaced, the doors never latch on the first attempt, seat operation stiff, noisey fan motor, coughing/popping from exhaust, cracking of vinyl on seats, very noisey cabin, leaks thru passenger door and back hatch. Many of these problems still exsist despite multiple visits to the dealer. The dealer does however try to keep me entertained with soom of the most comical excuses, – seats cracking due to improper entry??? mini doors are heavy so its normal for someone not to close on the first attempt??? the coughing/popping from exhaust – BMW put that there on purpose to ‘enhance the sports car experience”???. If I hadn’t paid for the car with my own money I might be able to laugh.

  • Brian McAdam

    I Bought a MCS from Wiliams BMW Liverpool, I have had many of the problems listed here.

    Car Hesitates to pull away when cold, My Neighbour just thinks I am A “Staller”

    The suspension is harder than a Half Track

    Windows squeek

    Dealer won’t recognise any of the problems and service is poor – bad on all visits

  • victoria gosling

    I purchased my brand new mini in January 03 from WHITEHOUSE, BROMLEY, KENT and it has been problematic since day 1. It has been in 3 times for the gearbox, only to be told on the first two occasions it was my driving technique and on the third occassion they realised there was a major fault and replaced the gearbox under warranty (Aug 05) 2 1/2 years later!!! Continuous problems with the windows dropping and slippin out of the runners, causes the alarm to go off all the time.Its been in 4 times for this, apparently its fixed now, we will soon see. Bald tyres after 8000 miles, was told again this was my driving technique. Its had two sets of new tyres now.Numerous faults!!!! the After sales team is a disaster. They valued my car on its last visit, its lost £5550. Definately not buying another mini or BMW.

  • Nicole Armstrong

    I purchased a Mini Cooper S a year ago. Brand new. Like i said ive had it for about a year and its been in the service department for 3 months of that for the same problem. It constantly stalls and has losses of power. It’s automatic. The blame is constatly being pushed from one idea to the next, but responsibility is never being taken. The car even stalls mid driving. It’s an unsafe car and its going to cause me to get into an accident. I highly urge everyone to think twice about getting involved with a car like this.

  • Debra Farnum

    My Mini Update (Original Posting Feb 18/2005) As the problems continued to surface, power steering failure, cluth, cylinder head and the list is endless. The one constant problem was the hesitation now the dealer was telling me that is was running to spec and had all the latest software updates and they felt the car was running “perfectly”! No satisfied with that I took the car to a performance shop where the car was hooked to a dyno and the results showed that the car was performing below spec, Horsepower didn’t meet the 163 listed for the cooper S, the torque was below spec and the car was running excessively rich, in fact the fuel consumption was literally off the chart. Took it back to dealer, although they dismissed the tests and the results they did replace the cylinder head (“just to be on the safe side” – how very charitable of them!) but I re-tested the car and the results were pretty much the same. Mini Canada has said they have done all they can to my car and as far as they are concerned my car runs to spec (that’s without the benefit of there own dyno equipment). How can a Car Manufacturer produce a car and market it as having a specific Horsepower & Fuel Consumption when the car doesnot meet those specs. Whats a girl to do?

  • D

    I’m a 16 year old guy accused of driving a “chick’s car,” and i guess it looks that way until i smoke them on a curvey road. My 2002 Cooper S is perfect with just over 26K miles. It is a true race car and will eat Z3s and Miatas. There is nothing wrong with the ride quality becasue i feel every bump, just like a go-kart, just what i like. The stalling is not an issue at all, with a 6 speed racing getrag you kinda have to know what you are doing. Best part is i that i can park it on top of my friend’s Ford Excursion (i have done it before). Look forward to warranty expiring cuz then i can get the top of teh line Dinan package. RMMMMM RMMMM.

    Motor On

  • D

    It somehow does not surprise me that the select few who have major problems are either women (who have the car because it is cute)or people who have navigation and an automatic and seat warmers. Some things are just not meant for MINIS, and some people are not meant for them as well.

  • Finally, purchased my “dream” car – 2002 Mini. After 6 months and at 20,000 miles the transmission failed. Service was poor – clutch was replaced first and then found to be not problematic, then more expenses for transmission. Certified service mechanic was rude and refuses to return parts supposedly replaced. My dream has turned into a nightmare! Small wonder that Toyota & Honda are so popular!