BMWUSA Chief Tom Purves Talks to AutoWeek

Mr. Purves has lots of say about the general future direction of BMW but it's the MINI and the 1 series comments that seem most interesting. Here's an excerpt from the Autoweek article:

Supplies of the Mini have been low. You now have about a five- to 10-day supply. Did you purposely restrict Mini's growth?

We aren't purposely restricting Mini's growth. We do have a limit. The plant in Oxford (England) is working flat out on three shifts. They are producing a little less than 180,000 cars, which is near their limit. There is also inevitably, with the introduction of the convertible, some changeover in the plant. Yes, we could sell more cars if we could receive more cars. On the other hand, our planning was substantially lower than our sales rate so we have been able to increase production to at least partially meet that demand.

Is BMW rethinking its plan to bring the 1 Series to the United States?

No. We used the Mini brand in order to ensure that BMW was represented in the small-car segment. You have to have a package with front-wheel drive to seat four people. And if you have a front-wheel-drive car, it can't be a BMW. What better brand than Mini?

The 1 Series is a rear-wheel-drive car, which takes us back to the original size of the BMW 2002. The 3 Series has grown up. The 1 Series takes us back to where we were when we generated the sports sedan that became synonymous with BMW success. As a front-engine rear-wheel-drive car, it has excellent handling and dynamics. And it will appeal to a younger group of people who are looking for that type of car. That's a different group and mind-set than the Mini group.

You can read the entire Autoweek article here.

I think to some degree he's right. The MINI offers a very different experience than the BMW 1 series would and to some degree it's a very different market. However I think he's greatly underestimating the potential market in the coming years for cars like the 1 series and all of its derivatives.

  • Interesting comments in there about the 1-series too. 🙂

  • vadr

    Okay, I'll bite — what is the group and mindset of the “MINI group”? Who does BMW think we are? Clearly they marketed to the “young” and they got the…uh… middle-aged. So now they're marketing the 1 Series to the “young”. Sometimes I think that BMW has NFI who their market is and they're just a very lucky company (that makes terrific cars).

  • Mark

    I agree, I guess we are not worthy of BMW owner status.

  • GJR

    “You have to have a package with front-wheel drive to seat four people.”

    I just don't understand what that statement is supposed to mean. Anyone?

  • JFS

    Why can't the US get a compact RWD car that can seat “four people”?

    Tom Purves did not make a lot sense with his comments regarding the MINI and the 1-Series (?).

  • Regarding why BMW isn't bringing the 1 series over – I think the basic idea that they have is that a small premium hatch won't sell in the US outside something as iconic as a MINI.

    Not that i agree with that notion but that's what their published stance has been in the past.

  • Josh

    Give it a couple years with the release of the 2 series comming up and an appreciation of the US dollar and I wouldnt be suprised to the 1 series makes it over to our side of the pond.

  • Ivan

    I think what he meant regarding seating for four is that you can't have a car the size of the MINI and still seat people with rear-wheel-drive. It makes sense, as you wouldn't be able to fit all the rear differential and revised suspension back there and still accomodate passengers.

  • Josh

    then just make the car a little bigger—problem solved (as the 1 series is bigger than a mini)

  • GJR

    My dad had a Mercedes C230 Coupe (hatch) which was rear drive and sat four very comfortably…

  • Purves meant that it's important for the brand worldwide to have a car that seats four and is front wheel drive. A configuration like that is actually considered part of the small premium family car market outside the US. Of course in the rest of the world this is a huge market. I suppose you could consider it something a kin to the full size truck market in the US but with less profit. Regardless it's something that is financially important for BMW to be involved in – and that's why we have the MINI!

  • I'm a bit offended at this last comment. “And it will appeal to a younger group of people who are looking for that type of car. That's a different group and mind-set than the Mini group.” How is the 1-Series market so radically different than the Mini?? I am young (29 years) and I would consider looking into the 1-series. Get this- I own a Mini too. I would like for Purves to explain to me what my mindset is and how it differs from those who he thinks would be interested in a BMW.

  • iDiaz


    The MINI isn't the platform for RWD. It follows the lineage of the classic Mini; front-wheel-drive, wheels pushed to the corners to create a car as small as possible on the exterior, while maintaining enough space for four on the inside.


    Exactly the class of car the 1-series is gunning for. The C230K is much larger than the MINI, so it can accomodate the rear-wheel-drive platform.

  • dgszweda1

    I think the biggest problem with the 1-series, is that it will compete with the Mini. I know that it is not identical to the Mini, but it is close enough to be a competitor. If the RX-8 is a competitor to the Mini and it seats 4 with 4 doors, than the 1-series will do the same thing. The power is very similiar (160-170hp) and it is a hatch.

  • iDiaz

    It appears Purves has pidgeonholed us into being trendy, fashion-minded people who bought the car because of its styling.

    From what I've seen, the lust for a performance vehicle is a key reason many people chose the MINI over other vehicles in its class, despite its compromised practicality. The MINI, especially the Cooper S, has proven that RWD is not a requisite for a high performance vehicle.

    If BMW needs proof of that, they can talk to the new 5-Series that couldn't shake me through the canyons last week. 😉


    It would be interesting to see the demographics of MINI owners. Are we really a bunch of middle agers? ( I admit I am) The problem with Purves'comments are that this same group is interested in the 1 series!

  • Last year a MINI exec told me that the average age of MINI owners was in the mid-40s. However MINI expected that to come down after the first year or so. They expected many of the first owners to be enthusiasts who remembered the original MINI or were buying the car as a 3rd or 4th vehicle.

    They are aiming their advertising squarely at “young urban professionals” which incidentally is probably where I'd fit in.

    Interestingly last year when I heard these numbers BMW actually had a lower average owner age at 42. Fascinating huh 🙂


    I have been a disappointment to my BMW salesperson for years because he can't upgrade me from a 3 series to a 5 series. He keeps telling me I am fighting the natural progression for my age group. Instead I went for a MCS in addition to the 3. If the 1 is brought over here it will be on my list!

  • At the risk of blog-whoring, I posted up some articles about the current state of auto sales, (it's still on the front page). A lot fo the numbers in the Buisness Week articles show that the small car market just isn't here in the states. “54.3 percent of all new vehicles sold in the country last year were classified as “light trucks,” as opposed to passenger cars. It was the third straight year so-called trucks outscored cars.”

    Not the type of numbers that BMW would like to see before bringing a second compact car to the stats, I'd guess.

  • Mark

    I just ordered a skull and cross bones roof graphic for my Mini, do you think that is the mind-set, he is talking about!! 🙂

  • Funny Mark. LOL

  • Evan

    Beyond BMW's recent styling risks, it is a fairly conservative company. We have to face the fact that the majority of Americans don't like small hatchbacks. We may love them, but that's just us and the few Golf owners there are out there. The 3 series is often critisized for its smallish back seat, so we can only imagine how the 1 series rear would be received. I agree that there would be some kind of market for the 1 series here, but BMW is probably keen on keeping the 3 series where it is with out stealing sales from it with a less profitable model like the 1 series on which I'm sure they'd make a smaller profit.

    In terms of the marketing stuff, MINIs are for everyone. There is not one demographic into which they fall, that's probably why the average age is higher- the ages are widespread. I'm 23 and when I was at the dealer there was a guy in his late 30s and a couple in their late 50s. Everyone likes a MINI. Marketing right now is focussed on the “young” crowd, usually failing to attract that population. Everyone I've seen in an Element or in any Scion has been 40+. That's definately not the youth market. BMWs are generally well received by everyone, so I think they are a little off in limiting the 1 series to the “young” crowd, but here in the land of excess, the typical small performance car driver is younger.

    I'd love a 1 series, 120d to be exact, but I know that my MINI will keep me happy for years to come.

  • dotBob

    I think BMW may be waiting a year or two before bringing something like the 1 to the States. The young crowd when I was in high school liked trucks. The high school crowd today seems to like small cars a lot more. Once there is sufficient demand for smaller European style cars in the States, I imagine BMW will have to enter the US market with something like the 1 series.

  • Wayne

    I'd like to see MINI at more BMW dealerships.

    It would make it wasier on those (like myself) that have a two hour plus drive for service.

  • I think we in the USA should be more concerned about DISTRIBUTION of the current allotment of MINIs, than with the size of the allotment to the USA.

    Some dealerships have excess cars sitting on their lots without buyers, while other dealerships have nearly year long wait-lists with no cars on the lot to purchase.