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Search is on for outlets as BMW aims high with Mini

BMW hopes to have an outline plan for its UK Mini network in place by the end of this month. A BMW team, led by Mini marketing manager Trevor Houghton-Berry, is visiting every applicant to assess whether their business is suitable to sell Mini as a separate brand.

Around 150 dealerships will be appointed. BMW is pushing for a separate showroom wherever possible, despite fears the car will not generate enough volume to justify the investment . Separate sales staff are a minimum requirement though workshop facilities can be shared.

Jim O'Donnell, BMW GB managing director, said: “We will look at each individual case but, unless dealerships invest in the people and the premises, we can't be sure there is real commitment. We want them to put their money where their mouth is.”

The company is looking for a new premises in Park Lane, central London, to create a Mini showroom away from its company-owned BMW site.

Mr O'Donnell hopes to sell around 25,000 Mini “in a peak year” with volume sales building up from 2002, after a UK launch next summer. He believes many buyers will be existing BMW owners.

“The challenge will be how to attract conquest business,” he said.

Mini will come initially in three versions – Mini, Cooper and Cooper S.

Frank Stephenson, designer, said the chassis had been designed to accept several more variants, including a cabrio and a “lifestyle estate”.

“We are looking at at least five variants on the basic platform,” he said. “I would expect the car to last a normal life-cycle of 10 years with a couple of facelifts.” Mr Stephenson said he wanted the new car to “be recognisable as a Mini which has grown up”. He said customers wanted more comfort and more safety than the original car provided.

While he is expecting some anti-reaction to the Mini in the UK, he said it was most important the car was acceptable to American customers.

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