Guess which country has a MINI sales growth of 95% year over year? How about 150% growth just for Q1? Obviously it’s not any country in Europe or North America. The answer as you likely guessed is China. This week the automotive world is gathered in China for what is becoming one of the largest auto shows in the world; Beijing’s Auto China. This morning (or later this afternoon depending on how you look at it) MINI gave a press conference talking specifically to the Chinese market.

Official Release: Nihao and welcome to MINI! It’s great to be back here in Beijing. This city is such an exciting mix of tradition and ultra-modern – it is constantly changing and evolving. Just like MINI!

After celebrating a milestone 50th birthday last year, MINI has shown that it is more youthful and appealing than ever. MINI is not a miniature version of another model series. MINI is and will remain the Original – with a cheeky attitude, a unique tradition and millions of fans all around the world. The good news for MINI fans is that the MINI family will grow – with three completely new models coming in the near future. But before we take a closer look at that, I’d like to give you an overview of how MINI is doing across the globe – especially here in China.

This year is promising to be a great year for MINI!

Worldwide: we had already sold around 50,000 MINI cars at the end of the first quarter. March was an excellent month which contributed to around half of those first quarter sales.

And MINI is finding an increasing number of fans here in China.

March was an outstanding month for MINI here – with growth of 95 percent over last year.
We have seen a total growth of over 150 percent in the first quarter compared with last year which means we have already reached our half-year sales figures from 2009 in the first quarter in China. We are extremely confident about further strong growth for MINI in this market.

China is becoming an increasingly important market for MINI.

We are clearly committed to further developing our business and customer satisfaction here. By the end of 2009, the MINI dealer network had grown to include 35 outlets. We will continue to expand the MINI dealer network in order to further offer the best service to MINI customers. In 2010 we will open two independent MINI 4S dealers in Beijing and Shanghai respectively – as well as around 10 new outlets.

And we also want to provide the growing number of MINI fans in China with fun activities, because that’s what MINI’s about. Last month we kicked off the MINI Chinese Job – which captures the spirit of the famous “Italian Job”. Fans from all over the country will take part in a series of driving challenges over the next four months, leading up to the finals in summer. The winning team will receive China’s first John Cooper Works MINIs, to drive for a year.

Apart from its driving fun, MINI is al so top when it comes to fuel efficiency and low emissions. And with its minimal proportions, there is no doubt that MINI is a perfect city vehicle. China is expected to be home to eight megacities by 2025.

Long term, it is our goal at the BMW Group to create zero-emissions mobility, which will be especially important for such populated cities.

Some of you may have heard about the all electric MINI E, which you can see here on our stand. With over 600 of these cars in the US, Germany and the UK, we have the largest fleet involved in a global pilot project to test everyday life with an electric vehicle. And as announced yesterday, we will be expanding our MINI E project to China this year. We’ll let you know further details as they come to hand.

Ladies and Gentlemen –

MINI is a brand which is so exciting and always one step ahead. It has so much potential for breaking new ground and evolving to suit the changing needs of customers.

To give you a taste of how MINI’s future will look, we’ve brought the MINI Coupe Concept to China for the first time. We wanted to bring the Roadster Concept as well, but unfortunately the effects of the volcano in Iceland caused a little glitch in its transport. As we’ve already announced, these two models will go into production and today I’m very pleased to announce that one of these models will already be available in 2011. We like to keep things exciting at MINI! In total, we will add three new models over the next years to bring the MINI family up to six. This underscores the consistent growth and development of the MINI family.

And today I’m very proud to present the Asia premiere of the fourth member – the MINI Countryman! As you will see in a moment, the MINI Countryman is a car which is unprecedented in the history of MINI. As a Crossover, it bridges the gap between the classic MINI and a Sports Activity Vehicle – one which goes far beyond urban boundaries.

Here it is, the MINI Countryman!

The MINI Countryman is our answer to the needs of customers who were looking for a bit more MINI. It’s the first MINI which has four doors, four-wheel-drive, four individual seats and measures over four metres long. And true to MINI’s motto – it’s MINI on the outside, Maxi on the inside.

It offers more space and greater flexibility, as well as typical MINI fun.
Not only do passengers have a lot of room, the luggage compartment is also very spacious. And the tailgate opens up wide which is great for loading bulky items.
And the slightly elevated seating in the MINI Countryman makes it easy to enter and exit the vehicle and it also allows for improved road vision.

One feature that is unique to this model is the innovative MINI Centre Rail.

This aluminium track stretches from the front to the rear of the interior and offers storage for personal items. The Centre Rail has neatly integrated electrical and USB connections for seamless integration of smartphones, such as the iPhone, and other devices.

The good news for customers in China is that we’ll be launching the MINI Countryman here in the first quarter of 2011. It will be available as a Cooper and Cooper S.

As I mentioned, the MINI Countryman is the first MINI which offers all-wheel-drive. Here in China, the MINI Cooper S will be available with the optional permanent all-wheel-drive system, which we call MINI ALL4.

And being a true MINI, it has minimal emissions and fuel consumption and is the leader in its class, in terms of eco-friendliness.

The MINI Countryman unites all the characteristics customers want in one package. It suits any age group and is a car for singles, couples and families alike.

Above all, it underscores the MINI brand’s character: ever so unique, ever so progressive, and ever so MINI.