AM spoke to Hearn, who has taken over from Trevor Houghton-Berry, as BMW announced a £100m cash injection into the UK plant where Mini is produced, aimed at providing increased capacity by 2007.
Production of BMW’s four-cylinder petrol engines, including those powering the Mini, will also move to its £400m Hams Hall facility in Warwickshire. The moves are believed to be in preparation for the next generation Mini, although the company would not confirm this.
“For dealers, this makes Mini an even stronger proposition. We already have a strong order bank, and production investment like this means we will be able to strengthen our procedures and help meet our network’s demands,” says Hearn.
Customers ordering a Cooper S face a typical wait of three to four months before their car is ready, while waiting lists for the Cooper S Convertible are even longer.
Despite BMW’s initial expectation that the cheapest Mini One would be the most popular model by far, Dr Anton Heiss, the Oxford plant’s managing director, told AM that Cooper and Cooper S models are achieving almost 50% of sales, with many stacked with optional extras.
Hearn dismisses the suggestion that Mini’s popularity might decline as the product gets older. “It’s our job over the next couple of years to make sure we continue to enjoy the success we have at present,” he says. “As the brand gets more mature we open out Mini to a wider audience.”
He says the popular fixed-price ‘TLC’ servicing package, which is transferable to new owners if the car is sold, means the dealer network should continue to receive revenue from aftersales business.
Since January, Mini owners have been able to extend the original five-year package to a total of eight years, guaranteeing franchised servicing during this period.