MINI USA Sales Up 32.2% in December. 2011 Best Sales Year Ever

MINI USA is reporting not only their best December but their best year ever for sales in the US. Sales in December totaled 5,711, up nearly 1,400 from the previous year. Total sales for 2011 were up 26% overall with sales of 57,511 units, up nearly 12,000 cars from 2010. VP Jim McDowell, head of MINI USA had this to say:

“MINI’s record setting sales results in 2011 prove that small is a success in its own right even without the prodding of rising fuel prices. Our U.S. customers have found they can have a great motoring experience even while enjoying strong fuel economy and a smaller footprint.”

It’s an interesting point that MINI is seeing its best year ever despite relatively low fuel costs and a still-rocky economic climate. I think it’s fair to say that the brand is standing squarely on its own four wheels. The novelty has definitely passed. “Cute” will only get you so far. High gas prices will make many people consider smaller cars, but MINI has been successful beyond these “on paper” factors. I think MINI is here to stay and has found a more mainstream fan base outside of those simply crunching the numbers or drawn to its bulldog face.

Where did that growth come from? The Countryman, of course. We’ve seen it in the numbers all year long. Countryman sales have been neck-and-neck with Hardtop sales for months now. At some point, R60 sales will likely surpass Hardtop sales, if only by a few units.

Now a lot of MotoringFile readers are not fans of the Countryman — not fans of the “bigger” MINI. I get that. From the perspective of the Hardtop, the R60 certainly is bigger. Thing is, I think Jim McDowell had it right when he said “small is a success” because the Countryman is one of the smallest, most capable, most sporting small four door crossovers available. Go find another small AWD crossover with good handling, a manual transmission, and that can get 30+ mpg. It doesn’t exist. People are responding to the Countryman’s clever use of space, its efficiency, and its performance — all the things that make it a MINI — and the brand is reaping the sales rewards. Furthermore, all the things the R60 brings to the table are additive. Its success takes nothing away from the Hardtop, nor does it unseat the Hardtop as the core of the MINI brand.

So a huge congratulations to MINI on a great year. Here’s to breaking that record again in 2012.

  • Anonymous

    As you can see by that bottom chart, MINI was in the crapper this year outside the Countryman. It is actually truthful in saying that the Countryman is the ONLY MINI that sold BETTER than last year. Considering the industry rebound it looks like MINI either didn’t have the inventory or people moved into other smaller offerings. It really is not all that rosy when you look at the rest of the numbers. Let’s hope that the new models light a fire under the rest of the line. The Paceman should be a hit starting next fall. 

    BMW had similar issues with car sales- buyers want SAVs and they are speaking with their wallets. With gas prices where they are and BMW/MINI building efficient SAVs it has sure helped the move off lots- or be ordered by purchasers. 

    • Frank Granados

      Sure, the R56 is nearing its life production cycle and the car is simply old news. People are looking elsewhere in this segment. Take the Fiat 500 for example which is cheaper in base form than a base Cooper. Then you have the Ford Focus/Fiesta and other worthy entries in the segment. And don’t forget a redesigned VW Beetle.

      MINI still holds the edge in the handling and driving fun department but not for very long. A redesign is urgently needed, IMHO.

  • Bob Hayhurst

    Looking at the numbers in terms of overall sales show an amazing sales story. Approximately 20% of all BMW sales in December 2011 are MINI. Compare all MINI sales to BMW passenger car sales and the percentage grows to roughly one third of gross sales for the month. I really couldn’t imagine a bigger long term sales sucess then what we have seen at MINI these last ten years. Pretty soon the tail may be wagging the dog…

    • Anonymous

      You can’t be serious can you? You can make the numbers look anyway you like (MINI is 17.5% of BMW group sales for December and 18.8% for all of 2011)  but you missed a few key things- the Countryman accounts for 1/3 of MINI sales now and that isn’t a car so your 1/3 number of cars is funny and 2) MINIs are much less expensive and yield far fewer profits than BMW vehicles. 

      I am not sure how a brand that accounts for less than 20% of all sales and less than 5% of all profits is going to take the lead over the parent company (might take a another century)…. Porsche tried that when they were printing money.There is a reason BMW is opting to build a front wheel drive car- MINI has reached saturation as the decline in sales year over year outside the Countryman show. That is what really matters. Take away a third of all MINI sales (Countryman) and you have company that functions in a space where SAAB once was as far as sales go. It has stagnated.

      There has been limited to no growth for sometime. The Countryman and Paceman are also ways to deal with the market saturation. We have a MINI Clubman, so I don’t want you to think I am anti-MINI but at the end of the day I am a realist and the numbers when not messed with tell the true story as do those within the Group that are working on making the profitability and sales volume work better than it is currently. Volume can’t increase much more on the hatch, it is saturated and the convertible/coupe/roadster are niche models. Oxford can’t really build many more models or units so the Countryman and Paceman (along with the next concept to be shown shortly) will be the only way for MINI to increase volume numbers. 

      The “other” models are where the future lies and for most MINI fans that is anti-MINI but that is what needs to be done. BMW had to do similar things with all the SAVs- there will be two more coming in the X1 and X4….. the X1 will definitely bite into Countryman sales especially if the promised 4 cylinder diesel is delivered in the X1.

      • RakSiam

        of course these are just US sales data. Not sure I understand the need to be so negative.

        • RakSiam

          or North American sales data anyway

      • Bob Hayhurst

        Oooouchhh…I really didn’t mean to hit a nerve with the comment Michael; my point was simply that MINI is a success story from the standpoint of being a startup car maufacturer. Seriously, I thought I was going to have to fill out a hurt feelings report. 🙂

        I was careful in my post to say, “Compare all MINI sales to BMW passenger sales…” , so I didn’t miss the point, in that I was aware of the comparison I was making.   Yes, MINI does sell smaller less profitable cars then BMW passenger cars but hell, that’s the brand DNA.  Yes, MINI will never outsell BMWNA; that was tongue in cheek and I wasn’t serious. 

        I don’t agree with your point of view that MINI sales would be stagnant without the Countryman. That is conjecture and unknowable. Takeaway 3 series sales from BMW and it would not have eclipsed MB car sales but that to would be unrealistic. The fact of the matter is Countryman is part of the MINI brand and it’s sales figures are only one measure of it worth.

        Clearly the sucess of one model does not mean that the other lesser selling models are failures.  The overall sales success of the Countryman, IMO, shows that MINI can change it’s business model to cater to the audience that buys it’s product.  It remains to be seen how the other models in the lineup will hold up when the wind starts blowing.

        I do agree with you that future success of MINI lies with new models and products we have yet to see. It’s all about change and how MINI is able to intergrate new product to new market demands. Hopefully the people at BMW/MINI sitting in offices right now thinking bold thoughts about the future will realize this and gently ease us into it… 

        • Anonymous

          Sorry- Got on a tangent there and combined a few ideas into one post. 

          My point is that without the new Crossover models MINI would be flat (the people at BMW and MINI know this as does the broader industry) there is little growth potential once sales flatten which they did for about three years.

          The typical MINI fans have hated on the Countryman like the typical BMW fans did with the launch of the X5 (and subsequent models) the fact is these less enthusiast oriented models are what sell and allow the enthusiast niche models to be built.

          For all the hate the Countryman has received I just wanted to drive the point home that it is now floating MINI in many aspects (most profitable model to boot). The future plans for MINI will make it more profitable and there will be more models that will attract a more mainstream buyer, that is good for the brand and will keep the lights on for sometime.

          BMW has figured out how to build cars in a more modular fashion and it is working well. The future is bright for the BMW Group but it requires deviation from the past norm.

  • jpvashon

    No doubt about it the Countryman is a runaway success story. I ordered an ALL 4 yesterday to replace an 07 Cooper S. In the end it was an easy call given the competition. Take the newish Honda CRV cheaper and with old transmission and engine technology then there is the Tigan. This VW product is boring and expensive and in the more expensive versions as much as a quite loaded version of ALL 4. In the race for every increasing sales Countryman, Coupe, and Roadsters represent why BMW/MINI are leaders in the automotive industry. 

    • Cinimin

      I would take issue with the Countryman not being a car – it certainally is not an off road SUV – it is much closer to being a car than the CRV, Tagan, and othre more SUV like small vehicles.  (We have had our R60 for a year, our R53 for 6 years, and our R52 S for 5 years)