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Mini USA in February brings to the U.S. its Clubman wagon, which is 9.45 inches longer than the three-door Mini hatchback, including 3 inches of extra legroom in the back seat. The Clubman is aimed at buyers who want a very distinctive vehicle but shied away from the Mini because it has limited space and flexibility.
"People who test drove the [smaller] Mini," said VP-marketing Jim McDowell, "but could never quite convince themselves they'd have enough room."
'The Other Mini'
The automaker is positioning the Clubman as "The Other Mini" in early online communications, and Mr. McDowell said launch ads next year from Butler, Shine, Stern, & Partners, Sausalito, Calif., will picture the vehicle with all five of its doors open to show the unusual configuration and easy access.
The base Clubman will start at $20,600, while the Cooper S version at $24,100. Mr. McDowell declined to discuss annual sales targets, saying only that Clubman would account for one-fourth or one-fifth of the brand's total 2008 sales, which will be up significantly from 2007.
He predicted there will be more male buyers and younger buyers than the brand's current owners, which have a median age of 44. The Clubman is said to have more guy-appeal and room for more "stuff."
BMW 1 Series
But while Mini is thinking bigger, parent BMW of North America is thinking smaller. At the Los Angeles Auto Show last week, the automaker took the wraps off the BMW 1 Series coupe which hits showrooms in spring. In BMW's typical tight supply-and-demand strategy, buyers will be waiting up to six months for the new Mini and up to four for the 1 Series.
However, the two models won't compete against each other, said Tom Purves, CEO of BMW of North America.
Mr. Purves said he expects 1 Series' buyers to be in their 30s, younger than the average BMW customers, who are in their 40s. The 3 Series, formerly BMW's entry-level model, "has grown up in size and scope," which, depending on options, costs between $33,000 and $37,000, he said. BMW's agency is GSD&M's Idea City, Austin, Texas.
Although BMW didn't announce pricing for the 1 Series, Mr. Purves said it will start at under $30,000 for the 128i version and under $37,000 for the twin-turbo-charged 135i.
That worries John Bulcroft, president of auto consultancy Advisory Group. The former marketing chief of Audi and Porsche predicted "some cannibalization" of 3 Series' sales by the 1 Series. Mr. Bulcroft believes the automaker "hasn't left enough space" between the two models' pricing.
BMW already has 40,000 hand-raisers for the 1 Series via a microsite that went live in July, said Mr. Purves. He declined to discuss annual sales projections for the model, which he said would push BMW to another record year in 2008.