New MINI Reliability is so Good that Dealers Service Departments Are Struggling

MINI reliability is a phrase that many former owners would scoff at. Yet MINIs have become decidedly more reliable and better built with the F generation of cars launched in late 2014. Designed and engineered 100% by BMW using BMW specified components, the newer MINIs have slowly began changing the perception of the brand as poor quality. As we wrote late last year, it holds true in our experience as well. We’ve had three F generation cars all without a single issue (or rattle for that matter).

MINI Reliability

All this quality has one unexpected downside. Dealer service centers are less busy than in years past. This is directly impacting dealers bottom lines as service can be a major revenue generator. This coupled with a downturn in MINI sales have hit some dealers hard. MINI USA VP Thomas Felbermair recently went on record with Automotive News saying “is still not where we would like to see it,” Felbermair said. Another factor that “is weakening profitability” for dealerships is the drop in recalls, Felbermair said. The Mini lineup has been heavily improved, and the brand had no recalls in 2017, he said. While that’s positive for the brand and customers, it cuts into revenue for dealership service departments.

The other irony is that many of the customers that have been clamoring for better built and engineered MINIs have left the brand due to repairs costs on R53s and R56s. Can MINI market this improved quality? Can they attract some of those longterm customers back to the brand? Or are they a lost cause and should MINI focus on gaining a new customer set? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

  • Greg

    There’s a problem in the incentives of an industry when what you see is dealers struggling because they sell a quality product.

    No wonder whenever you’re in for routine maintenance they wanna add stuff to the final invoice.

    Any has ideas how they could make their money besides unnecessary (or unnecessarily early) maintenance now that they have nothing to fix?

    • glangford

      I sold my 07 Cooper in late 13. It was the only car I’ve had that stranded my 3 times each requiring a tow truck. I said never again.

      I’m glad they’ve improved, but I don’t think reliability alone is the only gremlin responsible for lagging sales.

    • Any has ideas how they could make their money besides unnecessary (or unnecessarily early) maintenance now that they have nothing to fix?

      Yes.

      I’ve talked to the MINI dealer I use about convincing MINI USA to design and market MINI restoration packages, or to implement a special approach to service that has this goal of making G1 and G2 MINIs look and feel new again.

      Marketing a service like this, although unusual for a dealership, would create a clear line of communication and intention, and it would differentiate itself from the current service experience owners of earlier MINIs now have at the dealership. It would also differentiate MINI from so many other brands that must leave money on the table when it comes to (un)intentionally deprioritizing customers with older cars.

      Formalizing a restoration program might serve to reinvigorate MINI’s relationship with MINI owners who don’t identify with the current fleet of cars but maintain the same level of passion for their MINI.

      I realize there are obvious and traditional objections relating to a program like this, and dealers already offer to do whatever an owner wants or needs, but MINI has nothing to lose and everything to gain by choosing an unconventional make-it-new-again route; unusual is arguably very MINI, after all.

  • BEKEN

    It’s a fine balance that MINI needs to maintain to keep the MINI faithful engaged. The driving experience, reliability, fuel efficiency, safety, etc…. I have never met anybody that bought a MINI because the driver experience is like a VW golf. In fact, I am avoiding getting a new MINI because it feels too much like my BMW. My R53 MINI has been reliable enough that I think the balance does not sacrifice the driver experience. If my passengers complain about the rough ride, or the lack of space or whatever excuse they can find to get on my nerves, they can sit in the BMW or any other more generic feeling car. But that’s not what MINI wants. They want to sell more cars.

    Having said that, I do have keen interest in the Countryman in that it is the least SUV (truck) feeling of all the small SUV’s out there. Car like even.

  • donburnside

    I think it’s time for the Chevy style commericals, with normal people, extolling how much they like the MINI. As long as the keep the 4 door out of it…

  • Mendel Tomas

    Yes; market the increased quality. The best way to do this is to lengthen the warranty to 5/60 or something like that. Consumers see value in that and it could be a tie breaker at purchase decision time. I understand the frustration for dealers. However, they may need to get more creative. Maybe organize regional MTTS-style events to generate revenue? Or something similar to Porsche’s travel/tour service? My 2003 R50 that I had for 12 years and 93,000 miles had very high quality. The only ever needed repair was to the steering (common issue that Mini reimbursed). No warranty repairs at all, either. No issues at all with my F56 or F55. Gotta love Mini!

    • Szabo Tamas

      My 2003 R50 was doing fine until 7.5 years of ownership and then it just fell apart at 83250 miles. 1/2010 $1400 for power steering cooling fan and other stuff, 2/2010 $3000 for a worn throwout bearing. I did not pay that and the dealer gave me $4500 for the car. So in retrospect I lost $3000 in the last month of ownership. I loved my car, but my belief in Mini’s reliability was destroyed.

  • Aurel

    I sold both of mine months after the warranty ran out … 03 had the CVT that had the mystery super high priced failures. 08 had the mystery oil burn / consumption that was deemed “normal” by MINI. I loved those damn cars and the community, and while they never left me stranded, owning them out of warranty was nerve wrecking.

  • Kevin Bartlett

    My 17 has been flawless and I’ve put nearly 17,000 miles on it. Which is great because sadly my experience with the dealers service department has been far less enjoyable then other cars I’ve owned.