MINI USA exec Jim McDowell hasn’t been shy about his optimism for 2009 sales. Here’s the latest piece on the matter from Automotive News:

McDowell’s optimism comes despite a 15.4 percent sales drop in January compared with January 2008.

“People held off not because they can’t afford a Mini. It’s a question of whether this is the right time,” says McDowell. “It is normal for Mini to have a slow winter. January is normally our slowest month.”

McDowell says he bases his forecast on encouraging signs “in a very difficult economy”:

  • The second-generation Mini Cooper convertible goes on sale March 28. Prices, including shipping, will range from $24,550 for the base version to $34,950 for the high-performance John Cooper Works convertible that debuts in April.
  • Traffic on the Web site is increasing. More buyers are configuring cars, and leads are going to dealers.
  • The order bank started to build in late January.
  • + Mini chief: ’09 sales will top 2008 record / Automotive News