MINI Sales September Down 7.2% for the US

MINI USA had another rough month with sales off 7.2% off when compared to September of last year. To make matters worse, there were 26 sales days this year and only 25 last year. That’s another 4% hit right there.

Overall, US light vehicle sales were up 6.7%. Official readers of automotive-market tea-leaves attribute this strong demand to basic health of the overall economy, low interest rates and low gas prices. Replacing all the hurricane damaged cars added an additional bump as well.

MINI winners are the original 2-door hatch and the Countryman. Losers are the 4-door hatch and the Clubman. The convertible was about flat, selling 4 less units than September last year.

Looking at Matt’s MINI Index, while in the middle of the pack, the news is far from good. VW sales numbers show that there is no sin that the US buying public can’t forgive. The over-all message from the MMI? “MINI, outperforming Fiat and Smart!” Ouch! Smart at least has a good excuse. They’re moving to selling only the electric model, the poorly named Smart ED. Many of the Smart dealerships have just thrown in the towel and shut their doors.

Really, the best news for MINI this month had nothing to do with current sales numbers. It’s that MINI has finally hired new marketing companies. The resignation of the past agency was reported on March 20th of this year. In effect, MINI has had rudderless marketing for over 6 months. It’s no wonder that sales have been so bleak.

The Clubman JCW was in this year’s Car and Driver Lightning Lap. It went around Virginia International Raceway faster than the Fiat 124 Abarth and the Subaru BRZ Performance Package. It had a higher top speed than those two as well as the Honda Civic Si. (Sadly, it had a higher price than all three of those cars as well.) When we drove one at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the car was shockingly fast and competent, even with an automatic transmission! But you’d never know it from what’s been in MINI ads. We really hope that an effective message to the marketplace will make a difference in sales numbers. The brand sorely needs any help it can get.

Official News: Woodcliff Lake, NJ – October 3, 2017…
MINI Brand Sales For September, MINI USA reported 3,736 vehicles sold, a decrease of 7.2 percent from the 4,024 sold in the same month a year ago. Year-to-date, MINI USA reported a total of 34,787 vehicles sold, a decrease of 10.6 percent from 38,911 vehicles sold in the first nine months of 2016.
MINI Pre-Owned Vehicles
  • In September, MINI Certified Pre-Owned sold 847 vehicles, a decrease of 8.4 percent from September 2016.
  • Total MINI Pre-Owned sold 2,438 vehicles in September 2017, an increase of 9.1 percent from September 2016.
  • Total MINI Pre-Owned sales year-to-date were 23,440, a 10.0 percent increase from the first nine months of 2016.
  • Adam Bowers

    When cross shopping MINI’s anymore, they’re just pricing themselves out of contention. A well equipped Countryman is the same price as a BMW X1 even. Do I love my MINI? Yes, but I think MINI needs to reevaluate.

    • Yes MINIs are pricey but most cars these days. The Countryman loaded is the price of a light spiced X1. There is a real difference in price of about $4k.

      The reality is MINIs are small BMWs and represent great value when you consider what goes into them. I think the issue is that the US marketplace is finding that less valuable these days. However note that this sales softness is really only in the US.

      • darex

        Exactly right! $4000 plus a manual transmission. Otherwise, get the X1.

      • ConcernedCitizen

        I strongly disagree. Interior quality in the current generation cars is nowhere near deserving of an above $30K price, let alone $45K or more like I’ve seen many cars on dealer lots. The switches on the center console still look terrible to me with the curly black plastic ‘guards’ between each switch. Ford has a much more elegant solution in the Mustang.

    • karrock

      Way I see it, it’s the same pickle that VW had with the overpriced Touareg, which was based on a common platform with the Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7. Using BMW’s UKL raised the bar on MINI manufacturing quality and access to newer technology and features but it also raised their price tags into the coveted “premium” compact class that BMW wants MINI to live in.

      • It’s kinda crazy when you think about it. The F generation is dramatically better built and engineered. Yet the hardtop isn’t that much more in cost. The four door is particularly a good value when you think about what you get. Now MINI USA and their new agencies need to tell that story and sell that value prop.

        • Jan Wojcik

          … as much as I like driving my wife’s F56, at 31K it is overpriced and underpowered. The 2L motor is slow to rev and the lack of a LSD or some other tangible mechanical advantage makes it less than overwhelming when buying a new car. This is my wife’s third MINI and she thinks that she will go with a GTI the next time around as the driving pleasure has been watered down with each succeeding car (her words)

        • ConcernedCitizen

          That’s what I did. I made the switch to a GTI. Talking about better engineering, it’s night and day improved over any MINI (and IMO just about every BMW). And, you still get a dipstick, there are tons of aftermarket tuning companies that give you 300HP+ with just a flash, and you get a much better warranty. All 2018 VWs now have a standard 72 month/72K mile bumper to bumper warranty. The VAQ differential transforms the GTI into a canyon carving machine. It’s almost hard to believe a front wheel drive car with 310HP and 350 lb-ft (my car is tuned) can be so easy to live with without even a hint of torque steer and very little wheelspin.

        • Nick Dawson

          I’m a huge MINI enthusiast, but I have to agree with you that BMW hasn’t yet learnt how to build a FWD platform to match the VW Golf – but in all fairness, VW has been selling world beating FWD cars since 1974.

          Comparing the US sales of the MINI Clubman vs the Golf SportWagen – close rivals in the US – it would appear that US customers also agree.

          USA SALES – SEPTEMBER 2017 vs 2016 + YTD 2017 vs YTD 2016

          MINI Clubman —– 0,513 vs 1,004 (-48.9%) + 6,465 vs 8,024 (-19.4%) Golf SportWagen – 1,946 vs 0,933 (+108.6%) + 22,171 vs 8,477 (+161.5%)

        • ConcernedCitizen

          It may technically be a better engineered vehicle platform, but it hasn’t captured the heart and soul of MINI fans or the enthusiasts among us like the first two generations did. They don’t have the same zest, spunk or timeless design either. Moving up to the 2.0L engine without any significant improvement in performance over the 1.6T was a mistake in my opinion. They could’ve gone with a high strung 1.5T like Ford is doing in the Fiesta ST to give it something uniquely MINI.

    • Jaymes Deen

      If you shop your car by always saying, yeah but I can get XXX car for just another 4k. Guess what?Why stop at the X1 when for another 4k there is another car better (subjective) you can get. Then you know what….. add another 4k and there is another car/brand you can get.

      SMH sometimes I wonder if you people think with your brains.

      Here is another one for you…. Why buy that 4k TV 42inch for 1,000 bucks…. when for just another hundred you can buy a 46 one for 1,100…. See what I did there.

  • CA-MINI

    There have been many theories on the continued US sales slump: F generation styling, MINI’s growing in size, MINI losing it’s MINI-ness, price escalation etc. but I think the primary reason for the continued declining sales numbers is the fact that “premium small” does not have broad market appeal in the US. The rest of the world generally operates smaller vehicles, pays dramatically more for fuel, and has a tax structure that penalizes high gross weight, high emissions vehicles, the US is uniquely different. As we all know MINI is recording record sales globally. Being a happy owner of an R-series MINI and a fan of smaller cars in general I am a minority in the US, but I hope BMW/MINI does not pull MINI from the US market. What I am curious about is at what sales level does MINI USA become untenable for BMW

    • There not anywhere close to that. BMW is taking the long view on this as they have seen US sales cycles ebb and flow below.

      • CA-MINI

        Glad to hear that! Thanx Gabe

    • Nick Dawson

      TOTAL MINI USA ANNUAL SALES

      2002: 24,590 2003: 36,010 2004: 36,032 2005: 40,820 2006: 39,171 (R56) 2007: 42,045 2008: 54,077 2009: 45,225 (Global Banking Crisis) 2010: 45,644 2011: 57,511 (R60) 2012: 66,123 2013: 66,502 (Record Year) 2014: 56,112 (F56) 2015: 58,514 2016: 52,030

      2016: 38,911 (9 months YTD) 2017: 34,787 (9 months YTD)

      • So MINI USA is on track to sell fewer than 47,000 cars in 2017. Taking the global economic downturn of 2009-2010 into consideration, we haven’t seen sales this low in more than 10 years. Also a (projected) staggering 30% drop since the record year of 2013, a mere four years ago. Many factors already discussed are to blame for this but one that has been overlooked. Over the last three years, many new car buyers are opting for longer loan terms, up to 84 months and are rolling in thousands of dollars of negative equity from trade-ins. This is a mountain of debt and future negative equity that one just can’t endure forever. The math just doesn’t work. You might end up paying $60,000 for a $30,000 MINI in the end. The depreciation and interest/amount owed curves don’t end up crossing until very late in the loan. This slow’s down the upgrade cycle that the American car market has been living on for decades. Eventually, people end up with $10,000+ in negative equity and they can’t roll it into the new loan. This is a much larger problem than mere marketing or design issues. It’s hurting the U.S. car market as a whole and will continue to do so as people struggle with a new car “mortgage”. This is pushing people to turn to less expensive pre-owned and off-lease cars which is pretty evident by increased pre-owned sales numbers month after month this year.

        • Nick Dawson

          Todd – you have hit the nail on the head. In fact the situation is not dissimilar here in the UK. As a consequence of the global economic downturn, the Bank of England interest rate is still at the historic low level of 0.25%. It is cheap, therefore, to borrow money – good for stimulating the economy, bad for accumulating high levels of personal debt.

          As a matter of interest, the average time for selling a used car in the US is 33.4 days. The fastest selling used car in the US is the Fiat 500e @ 22.2 days, followed in second place by the BMW i3 at 23.2 days. The Tesla Model S is in tenth place @ 26.1 days. See the the attached list of the top 10, for the period January-August 2017. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d3551ded945501cf7418859e2a7d04aae694053ba5e39698b09fbd905f3d0c86.jpg

  • darex

    I just bought a 2018 Countryman, my 3rd MINI. My theory:

    Public perception of MINI’s reliability is abyssmal! Even if it’s hardly, or no longer true, the public sees MINI as unreliable, costly, and expensive to maintain. THAT’S why sales keep falling. The chasm between today’s reality, and yesterday’s perception is huge. Look how long it’s taken Hyundai to convince the public, and MINI’s actually even closer to Hyundai’s dreams.

  • thrillseeker

    Poor marketing as stated in the article is a major reason for poor sales. Most people in the US view the MINI brand as a small fuel efficient car. I have lost count the number of times people have been surprised by its performance, in terms of power and handling. Then the size just kills it in a nation that loves big cars and perceives them to be automatically bigger and better. We are family of 3 with a toddler, and people are always ask how we can possibly swing it. Finally, the MINI brand really has no prestige in the market place.

  • Nick Dawson

    The X1 appears to offer better value for money than the Countryman, at least in the US where a more powerful engine is used. Nonetheless, in September sales of the X1 in the US were down -5.3%, whereas sales of the Countryman were up +34.8%.

  • ConcernedCitizen

    What’s interesting is that when C&D tested the manual Clubman JCW, it actually posted worse performance results than a Clubman S MT. The acceleration was not improved, grip was only 0.01g improved on skidpad, braking was longer (really long TBH, especially for a $40K “performance car”), yet they said the ride quality had been degraded significantly from the JCW sport suspension.

    Then they talked about how it was slower than a significantly less powerful Civic Si, and of course slower than a Civic Type R, GTI, Golf R, Focus ST/RS, etc.

    I’m just really continually getting more and more disappointed with MINI as it seems they’ve still not realized how to turn the ship around in the US by offering better vehicles. Sales wouldn’t continue to fall if the cars were great. Regardless of their advertising, sales will keep falling until they stop the price gouging sticker prices and underperforming models. The news of the LCI completely avoiding any power bump was just more of the expected.

  • Jaymes Deen

    I wonder if VW would have such great sales, unless there were buying back all these cars from people and essentially giving them free money.