On the eve of the US debut of the Countryman (at the NYC Auto Show in a few weeks) the WSJ took a look back and a look ahead at the MINI brand and it’s surprising success in the US market. It’s a fascinating take on the MINI story by a relative outsider to the automotive world let alone the MINI world. Here’s an excerpt:

>“It was like a mission for me,” says Jack Pitney, who was BMW’s North American corporate communications chief at the time. “Here was the most successful car in U.K. history, with an uninterrupted production run of 40 years. It needed to be on our roads.” The numbers were against him. “All the classical research said there was no market,” Pitney says. “The Mini brand had less than 1 percent recognition in the U.S.”

>His pitch to BMW was that the Mini shouldn’t be marketed as a tiny British hatchback, but instead as a small European sports car with retro flair. Finally, the company gave the North American office a pittance to launch with: around 1/20th of BMW’s North American marketing budget. Still, Pitney promised big, telling his superiors he could move 20,000 cars easily. (BMW’s Z3 roadster—its most successful sports car ever—sold 19,600 the year it hit the market.) “We thought we were hanging it way out there. American cars were getting bigger—the Hummer H2 was just coming out—and here we were bringing the smallest car to the market and charging a premium for it,” Pitney says.

You can read the entire article here:

+ Mini’s Small Victory / WSJ