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.