P90158767-Mini-meeting-2014Every year, MINI USA organizes an Annual Sales Meeting between their executives and owners and managers of MINI dealerships across the U.S. This comes as an addition to the frequent visits that MINI USA Regional Sales Managers pay to dealers in their respective geographic areas. The purpose of this year’s meeting was to review 2014 and discuss what’s coming in 2015. While we already detailed [parts of MINI USA’s tactics](http://www.motoringfile.com/2014/11/13/mini-usa-to-improve-service-marketing-and-dealer-profits/) for this year, we managed to gather additional tidbits from our sources.

##The New York International Auto Show##
Last week we [reported](http://www.motoringfile.com/2015/03/19/mini-usa-drops-out-of-the-nyc-auto-show/) that MINI USA was unexpectedly pulling out of the New York International Auto Show. Since we didn’t have any details at the time besides the official announcement, speculation ran wild in the comments section of MotoringFile. We now know why. Historically, MINI always had a prime center spot at NYIAS, next to “heavy hitters” and other luxury brands. However, NYIAS organizers decided for 2015 to organize manufacturers based on their size (i.e. sales, market share). And MINI being what it is, our favorite car company was demoted to the outer hall of the show, next to the Kias and Hyundais of the world. While we disagree with NYIAS’s logic, their point of view is not irrational. There’s nothing wrong with changing the way things are done. But when you do so at the last minute, after most things have been paid and arranged for, this is simply unacceptable. Given MINI’s discontent and strategic priorities, they had no choice but to pull out of the show. It is obviously a costly move, but we applaud their decision. By the way, here are NYIAS’s [Twitter](https://twitter.com/nyautoshow) and [Facebook](https://www.facebook.com/nyautoshow) pages if you want to voice your disappointment.

##Convertible and Clubman News##
Two weeks ago, we also [reported](http://www.motoringfile.com/2015/03/12/rumor-2016-mini-convertible-f57-to-debut-at-the-nyc-autoshow/) that the new F57 Convertible would make its debut at the New York Auto Show. Now that MINI is not attending NYIAS, what of the F57 launch? Although it’s not set in stone, it appears that the Convertible may not launch in the U.S. this year. In the span of 12 months, three new models will have arrived in showrooms – the F55 4-door Hartop, the F56 John Cooper Works, and the F54 Clubman – and MINI USA didn’t want to squeeze the Convertible between all these releases and dilute the attention of potential buyers. Additionally, MINI USA has high expectations for the new Clubman and a strong marketing push will support their ambition, leaving again little room for the Convertible. With that in mind, when is the F57 coming out? For now our sources are telling us next spring, but then again, nothing is 100% certain.

To some of you, all this may sound contradictory; MINI was about to unveil the Convertible but now has valid reasons to actually not release the car? It is possible that MINI USA was initially ambivalent about the release schedule of the F57 and that NYIAS’s decision turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

A while ago, we also announced that the F54 Clubman would debut in the U.S. later this year. Our sources are now telling us that production allocations for the new Clubman will become available in late fall, with the first cars landing at dealers between the end of November and early December. In fact, MINI USA showed an Electric Blue Clubman S to dealership owners and managers in attendance. (yes, there’s a production-ready Clubman on US soil!) From what we hear, it looks as beautiful as the Geneva concept. The much criticized lower-front bumper of the Hardtop is now replaced with subtle air-ducts, and the interior cabin is roomier and of higher quality than ever seen on a MINI before. Speaking of room, the new Clubman is now 5.7 inches longer than the Countryman and 3 inches wider. That’s a 3.5% and 4.3% increase in length and width respectively compared to the R60. It is obviously not as tall as the Countryman but it does “feel” much larger. Interestingly enough, all of our sources believe this new Clubman will sell to unprecedented levels compared to the previous generation.

One last thing. The secret compartment above the glove-box will most likely be discontinued very soon, and that is across the range.

##Brand Positioning##
Over the next five years, MINI’s plan is to become more upscale, to the point where it could even compete with its parent company in some areas. We don’t know if this will affect its pricing and model lineup strategies, but MINI wants to be seen as a refined, elegant, and luxurious brand while keeping its cool factor. For instance, a stronger accent will be put on the level of technology packed in MINIs as opposed to other cars it is currently compared against. It also means going away from the quirkiness and cuteness associated with MINI in general (e.g. [Cram It In The Boot campaign](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YwL4HrvHoY)) and shooting for more refined and polished advertisement. This change could not only affect advertisement and marketing, but also dealerships. There are insistent whispers in favor of Motoring Advisors wearing suits instead of casual dressing.

It is difficult to form a definite opinion on these moves without more details. At high level, we believe aiming for polish and refinement is an interesting strategy. Luxury sells, a lot, and commands healthy margins. On the other hand, there are more pressing issues to tackle in the dealership experience before worrying about how salesmen are dressed. All in all, be prepared for 2015 to be a year of renewal from a model, marketing and sales standpoint. These are definitely exciting times to be a MINI fan.