On the lot: 23 days

March 2002, MINI dealerships around the country opened their doors and started delivery of the first COOPERs to customers. Some paid premium and some had been on wait lists for 18 months or longer.  Limited initial production meant that many dealerships had estimated backlogs of orders measured in years, not days. Demand was strong, but dealers were left to ponder the question, when would the demand subside to the point that they would have a regular inventory?

Fast forward five model years to March 2006. The current generation of MINIs that was once in hot demand is now ticking down the build slots until an August factory change over, the next generation MINI has been revealed, and the twinkle of the R55 Traveller is on the horizon.

The writing may be on the wall, but you’d never know it to look at the latest from The Detroit News which shows MINI to be still one of the quickest selling cars on the market, staying on a dealer’s lot an average of 23 days. 

Sales may be strong, but the picture isn’t quite as rosy as it once was.  More dealerships than ever are selling at MSRP, some are advertising nationally, coordinating nationwide (and sometimes free) shipping, and a few have shown a willingness when nudged to sell MINIs closer to invoice pricing than MSRP.   All of which points to a shift in the MINI marketplace from a car that once sold itself, to one that dealers now have to put some work into to sell their full allocation. 

Will MINI reach the point where Motoring Advisors need to become more traditional car salesmen?   Most likely not.  However, the next several months offer a prime opportunity for those interested in negotiating a better deal. 

39 Comments

  • Bob Womack says:

    Interestingly enough, when I made my order in Januaryof 2003, my dealership, Checkered Flag in Virginia Beach, VA, was ordering and selling the car at MSRP with no premiums or required collateral purchases. In fact, a couple of my options came out cheaper than they were adverstised on the MINIUSA website. I suppose that was rather odd for the period.

    Bob

  • Chris LW says:

    Be interesting to see/hear if California is still experience long waiting lists like they were for awhile….Sigh, I see the Porsche Cayman, BMW 7-Series other expensive cars are jumping off the lots, not into my driveway however 🙁

  • O(=^=)O Capn says:

    Wow! a list of such dealerships would be nice.

  • Dave says:

    I purchased my ’06 MC here in Southern California back in November (at MSRP). I placed my order in August. The only reason I had to wait for a build slot was because my options didn’t begin production until October. Otherwise there were spots available (MC and MCS) if I had wanted a spec that was already in production.

  • alpinamike says:

    23 is the avg. remember… does this include all that are ordered? Real Total? I know they do well because they keep dealer lots small, it cost to keep them there every month in insurance and backing up more and more would raise costs. -alpinamike

  • Carlos says:

    I just ordered mine on Saturday in San Diego (Brecht MINI). The ones on the lot (there were about 15) had a 10% markup over MSRP, I got it at MSRP by dealing through the web but anybody that just walks in the dealership will get the markup. There were no waiting lists at all.

    I’m supposed to get a build number today 🙂

  • codemunkee says:

    western side is a little different. still up to 6 months wait here in phx. they need more dealerships here.

  • Kurt Collins says:

    I actually got a decent discount when I purchased my 06 MCS – the dealer installed JCW so it does not have the upgraded brakes – however, that said, my JCW cost was MUCH lower than it would’ve been if I’d had it factory installed.

    My discount worked out to about $1500.

  • GMINI says:

    Seeing great trade-ins offered here. Two in the neMINI.org community have very recently signed deals on 06’s with that behind them.

  • csdmmnt says:

    Continual price increases are putting the car in the market of others. The push for performance ends up putting the MCS into the area of quite a few other cars who are also quite the performers, wherein the audience may not be so caught up on the “tradition” of a MINI more so than the bang for the buck desire.

  • eeldrop says:

    The impact of trade-ins and the used market probably shouldn’t be underestimated—one of the things that new MINI sales are bound to compete with are used MINI sales, particularly as time goes by…you might be skittish about buying an 02...you'd probably be less so about an03, and the quality-concern-barrier-to-entry will only drop as the `04s get into 3 and 4 years of age.

    R55 and R56 will change the chemistry of choice a bit, but, from here on out, the potential buyer’s new v. used choice is just going to be harder and harder to make.

  • Alan says:

    You should see it here in South Africa. The dealers here have maybe 3 on a lot, and I got a 2% discount on MRSP, but I had to wait just under 3 months… My 06 MCS will be here in about 2 weeks. 🙂

  • nina simone says:

    GMINI, just how good are the deals?

    It’d have to be quite good with joyous 06s coming out of the blocks. An 06 is keenly different than an 03 though. ;D

    Capt,- Bill Jacobs MINI/BMW offers $1000 off.

  • geno says:

    Here in San Francisco, you can see about 5-10 MINI’s on the lot. But you go back a few days later and it’s 5-10 different MINI’s. So they seem to be selling thru them ok.

  • Doug says:

    Just so happens, I visited a few dealers yesterday (in SoCal) before the rain.

    Stock on lot has to MOVE…you can get at MSRP. Those who say they have to pay mark-ups in SoCal are not very well versed in car buying.

    I ordered a MCS at a dealership in Monrovia, CA … that was NOTORIOUS for their markup…. ordered at MSRP.

    I bought my first one there, off the lot stock in April 02…. for MSRP.

    Again… It’s just silly to say you can’t.

  • acetonic says:

    I’m starting to realize how lucky I was, back in May 2002, when I first saw a MINI and realized they were selling them in the US. I had an interest in the car since it’s debut in Geneva but never followed the progress closely. I actually never thought they’d make it the the States.

    A local used car lot had a bare-bones super marked up MC on the lot in late May, `02 that I test drove and loved. I went online, found the closest dealer, asked if they had a CR/W, they did and I had it in front of my house by the end of the week! No markup, just a few dealer installed options that I had to take since I didn’t custom order.

    It wasn’t until I got involved with the early MINI groups in the area that I realized how atypical my experience was. I’m still glad I got the car I wanted without the agonizing wait. Almost 4 years and 83,000 miles later, I am still just as pleased with my trouble-free, fun car.

  • hugh says:

    Exactly one year ago at this time, I was able to get $500 off msrp on any 05 Mini on the lot from a dealer in PA.

    Does anyone know if Honda is trying to pull the same short inventory deal with the new SIs?

  • Vanwall says:

    Down here in Dago, there is effectively a closed market, with only one dealer out on the fringe of a huge metro area, and they do pretty much what they want to. Which has been a fairly stiff mark-up, and they generally get it. Many of us who are knowledgeable here go out of town, a sad consequence, and even go to the LA area for service.

    Published accounts aside, our local dealer’s lot-time may have been published as one thing, but anecdotal appraisals are another, and I don’t think they care whether they’re churning or not.

    I’m glad the lot times are low overall, regardless of stocks, tho, because it means the overall demand will be high for some time to come, and I want MINI to be a long-term success here in the States.

              BCNU,
             Rob in Dago
    
  • big al says:

    i enjoyed building my car on line. i built and ordered mine in august and ordered a 06 mcs. i didnt mind paying msrp too much. one local dealer was trying to add $1000 clear bra for the car. they said i didnt have a choice. bummer they were wrong. i called another dealer in the state of florida and worked the deal in 5 minutes. msrp tax tag title and $299 dealer fee. paying full msrp for a 5 minute phone call was worth it. thanks downtown mini

    p.s. it took about 7 weeks 🙂

  • JK says:

    What’s a Dago?

  • Carlos says:

    @ Vanwall:

    Like I said, I got mine from Brecht, the only dealer in “Dago” (a.k.a. San Diego) at MSRP, I just built my mini on miniusa.com, clicked the “have someone from the dealership contact me” link, got an email, emailed back my configuration and that’s it, no markup.

    That’s a lot easier than buying from an out of town dealership.

  • Vanwall says:

    Carlos –

    They weren’t selling any MINI for quite a while there without a mark-up, spec cars or web-contacted regardless, and my beef is with that mark-up for on-the-lot cars – it narrows the chances for non web-surfers and the like to buy a MINI locally. Yeah, it’s a lot easier when the dealers have come to conclusion that a mark up on spec cars is too much, and I understand the dynamics of inventory, but until MINI came along it would have been unthinkable to buy a car without a discount – gee, some marques have dealers that actually compete in some places. 😉 A car selling at list is making a bunch for the dealers already, the mark-up is excessive IMHO.

           BCNU,
        Rob in Dago
    
  • rick says:

    I also live in Dago and had to ordered my 2006 MCS / with JCW from Long Beach to get MSRP.

    Rick

  • LTZMTOR says:

    Carlos……….good luck with Brecth.

  • Bill W. says:

    Hey Kurt,

    I am also in the DC metro area…which dealer were you dealing with — Tate or Sterling? Am contemplating getting one of the remaining ’06 builds.

    –Bill W. Silver Spring

  • Karla says:

    Hmmmm. Maybe JimOhio had it right.

  • Edge says:

    Bill W… in case he doesn’t see it, he bought it from Tate. Be warned though, he’s already had some problems with their JCW install… they are trying to rectify it though. You can reach Kurt via NAM, his online name there is “krut” (no that’s not a typo!).

  • gokartride says:

    I saw my first MINI in Oct, 2002…used…at a Honda dealership. It was a Cooper, and it was displayed prominently. The asking price….$26,000. What were they thinkin’? I placed an order the next month and had my own Cooper January 31, 2003. MSRP….$18K.

  • Osmodious says:

    If they were giving a fair deal on trades, they might do a bit better…I would have bought one just a few weeks back if they hadn’t tried to thoroughly screw me on my ’04 Cooper S trade. Resale awards? HA! I was offered far more at every other dealer I shopped…my dealer didn’t even offer me what the Official Screw the Northeast Consumers book (Galves) listed. Brand loyalty? What about loyalty to their customers? I found it very entertaining when I had my S in for service the other day to see the car I was going to buy STILL sitting there at the dealership, 7 weeks later (and they had had it for 4 weeks already at that point). I guess that sometimes screwing the consumer can bite you on the butt, even with a MINI…

  • Brett says:

    I ordered my 2006 MCS JCW on December 29th 2005 & it won’t arrive ’till October/November 2006?!?

    I don’t know why everyone’s complaining about a 2- 3 month wait when Seattle & Oregon dealers make you wait a year : (

  • Badburro says:

    Here in the Pacific NW, both the dealer here in WA and in Oregon are quoting about 8 months for a MCS and 10 months for a MCSc.

  • GMINI says:

    hey nina simone . i don’t have the data on trade-ins here in the NE. but the instance i have the most data on is here: http://www.nemini.org/Forums/viewtopic/t=3712/postdays=0/postorder=asc/start=0.html

  • O(=^=)O Capn says:

    Carlos, Whoa!

    Nina, thanks. But is that off of MSRP? At MSRP?

  • Allison says:

    Have to agree with Osmodious. I live in Pennsylvania and ordered my first MINI Cooper May of ’02 and took delivery early July. After much thought, decided to upgrade to an ’06 MCS and went back to my original Motoring Advisor (I was his very first customer ever back in 2002)…was offered peanuts for my trade in. Ended up selling it on my own and got a couple more thousand than MINI offered for the trade in, but it was a bit of a hassle. They don’t seem particularly loyal to repeat customers who may not have a lot of expendable income and can’t afford to lose money on a trade in.

  • Todd says:

    I went to a dealer in Miami in January to find there wasn’t a single car on the lot. I thought they had closed the dealership. I called and was told they had just purchased 15 from a dealer in NJ– just to have cars on the lot.

    I ordered a MCc at MSRP at the end of January that was scheduled to go into production mid-March. Got word on Friday that the car had been built and is awaiting transport– weeks ahead of schedule.I guess maybe I owe this to the ramped up production facilities at Oxford?

  • Bill W. says:

    Many thanks Edge.

    Funny about Tate…I actually ordered an ’05 MCS from them and ended up not taking delivery of the car because of some really shoddy handling by their financial services dept. Everyone else there seemed pretty knowledgeable and helpful, and back then they were selling everything at MSRP.

    I ended up getting an E46 325i from another BMW dealer for dirt cheap, since the model was flipping over last spring. But am thinking of putting a deposit on an ’06 MCS. Have lots of remorse over the deal going south…

    –Bill W.

  • Craig says:

    Traded my 2003 MC on a 2006 MCS/PS/BL w/JCW filter at MINI of STERLING. Their first offer for the trade in was a bit of a joke, but after some emails back and forth I received what I think was a very fair trade in price. It’s a 100 mile round trip to the dealer so it is very important to have written what was offered!! Of course paid MSRP for the ’06, but I am happy overall with the process at MINI of STERLING and will purchase a third MCS there if and when I am ready!!! And the MCS with the JCW is a BLAST to drive!!!!!!

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