Category Archives: Information

Slump in Sales Could Drive Minis to BMW Dealerships

Miniature sales numbers could soon force Minis, which currently have their own dealerships, to share space with BMWs.

The Mini marque, which is owned by BMW, has had stand-alone Mini stores since 2008 as part of its efforts to maintain a unique, independent image. Today, there are 127 Mini stores. Mini dealerships, though, appear to be struggling to sustain this independent dealership model due to lower-than-expected sales numbers.

Mini projected it would have 100,000 in annual sales by 2017, but it hasn’t yet topped 66,500, a number it reached in 2013. The brand’s sales decreased by 10 percent in 2017, and through the first 10 months of 2018, Mini sold only 37,359 cars.

This has led some Mini dealers to request an integration with nearby BMW dealerships to reduce overhead costs and increase efficiency. Sharing costs associated with real estate and operations could help the brand stay afloat.

“We want to focus on dealer profitability so that they are properly represented in the marketplace,” Thomas Felbermair, vice president of Mini Region Americas, told Automotive News.

BMW and Mini, however, want to ensure brand differentiation should the two merge dealerships. To accomplish this, they’re considering creating separate Mini showrooms at BMW dealership locations. Dedicated Mini salespeople and service workers would staff these showrooms. Mini is also working with some dealers to reduce their requirements for showroom space to facilitate the move.

Mini has also indicated that it’s exploring other ways to support dealerships that would remain independent.

Challenges Facing Mini

The sales slump is the primary challenge facing Mini, but another issue is the lack of new product. Mini introduced the redesigned Countryman in spring 2017 and a plug-in hybrid variant later that year. A full-electric model is expected to arrive next year, but some Mini dealers have expressed worries that there isn’t enough new product on the horizon to keep customers interested.

“We’re in a development phase,” Felbermair said. “There’s a number of longer range projects that you will see come to fruition.”

Some dealers have also expressed concerns about a lack of consumer awareness caused by inadequate marketing funds.

Perhaps the biggest threat, though, is the fact that the company hasn’t been able to convince Americans to buy premium small cars. The U.S. market for SUVs and light trucks is strong, but that of premium compact cars continues to struggle. Mini also hasn’t been able to attract the young drivers it originally that would be its core audience.

“As a dealer and a manufacturer you have a vision of where the brand is going, and you have to prepare for it,” Jason Willis, a member of the Mini National Dealer Council, told Automotive News. “In this case, the vision now isn’t what it was when some of these stores were built.”

However, BMW and Mini still have hope that things will turn around. The marque is going through a bit of a rough patch that’s left it unable to maintain its independent dealership model. Although the company hasn’t made a final decision yet, reducing costs by moving in with BMW dealers may help Mini hold on until conditions improve.

Your BMW Could Be Recalled Due To A Fire Risk

BMW recently announced that it is recalling 1.6 million diesel vehicles worldwide because of potential fluid leaks that could cause fires.

The automaker said that in some diesel vehicles, the coolant glycol could leak out of the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) cooler, which is part of the emissions reduction system. When combined with typical deposits of soot at the high temperatures that occur in the EGR module, the leaks could result in smoldering particles that could cause the intake manifold to melt “in very rare cases,” the BMW Group said in a statement. This could cause a fire “in extremely rare cases,” the company said.

BMW Concept 4 Series Coupe

The company previously recalled 480,000 vehicles in Asia and Europe in mid-August after fires were reported in South Korea. In August, the South Korean government banned owners of affected vehicles from driving them until they could be inspected after videos of BMW vehicles on fire went viral in the country. The company also faced a class-action lawsuit from customers that alleged that BMW did not respond promptly to the fires, which led to an investigation by the government. Police raided the automaker’s office in Seoul. In response, BMW said it would pick up the cars banned from being driven, provide rental cars to customers and conduct the necessary inspections. No injuries were reported related to the incidents.

Following the driving ban in South Korea, the BMW Group conducted further examinations of vehicles with engines with similar setups. The company then announced the ban for Asia and Europe. On October 23, BMW said it would expand its recall to cover a total of 1.6 million vehicles worldwide, including around 54,700 vehicles in the U.S and Canada. The announcement includes some vehicles made between August 2010 and August 2017. As part of the technical campaign, the company said it would check the EGR modules and replace any faulty components in all potentially affected vehicles.

The global recall is voluntary. The BMW Group said that it did not find any significant risks to customers in its recent examinations.

“Nonetheless the BMW Group decided to further reduce even this minor risk by expanding the country-specific technical campaigns. It is the goal of BMW Group to support the trust and confidence of our customers in our products,” the BMW Group said.

BMW said that it would contact customers with affected cars. Customers can also check for recalls that apply to their vehicle by entering the last seven numbers of their vehicle identification number (VIN) on the BMW website. Additionally, customers can contact BMW or their local dealer with questions and concerns.

BMW also recently recalled approximately 2,600 2016-17 BMW M3 sedans, 2016-17 M4 and M4 GTS coupes and 2017 M4 convertibles because of a potentially faulty connection between the flange and driveshaft. A failed connection could result in a loss of propulsion and increased crash risk. BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driveshaft at no cost to the customer.

The Quail, A Gathering of Extravagance. And then Some

Pictures by Mitchell Weitzman and Daniel Blodgett

Last year I was lucky enough to attend the Quail, A Motorsports Gathering at the lavish Quail Lodge fairways in Carmel Valley. It was my first time back at The Quail Lodge for over fifteen years when they last hosted il Concorso Italiano, now at the Bayonet. I’ve always wanted to go back since I first heard they formed their own signature event, but the honest truth is Monterey Car Week is so packed with things to do, it’s tough to fit everything in. Not last year. Last year, I finally made the efforts to attend the Quail and ohh my was it the biggest mistake in Car Week history.

Now when I saw mistake, I don’t mean the event. The mistake was me not attending The Quail for the prior fifteen years, and that’s because it was incredible. Stupendous, in fact. How have I been missing this for the past decade and a half? I thought to myself. No, not again. I must go every year now. And so it has cemented itself as tradition in my own personal Monterey Car Week lore. With that in mind, yes the 2018 edition was one I couldn’t miss.

What makes the Quail special? Everything. No, honestly, and literally. The cars are amazing, but they’re only part of the show. The food is delectable. And there’s a lot of it. A pass into the Quail nets an all-you-can-eat buffet with an outstanding variety that’s influenced from each corner of the world. Let’s see, I at different times of the day indulged in salmon, chicken, oysters, caviar, salads, cake, and Thai food (still not cultured enough to tell you the name of what it was). And it was all mouth-wateringly good. Don’t forget the drinks. From Bulliet Rye Manhattans and Whisky Sours my friends enjoyed to Margaritas and to wine (not your bottom shelf Andre, either), it was all there.

I’ve never been somewhere that makes me feel like an A-Lister until coming here. Speaking of A-Listers, I was looking over a selection of Rufs when I noticed the man in front of me peering into the side window looked slightly familiar. Then I heard him speak and immediately recognized the Aussie accent from down under. It was none other than known car guy Eric Bana (if his lap on Top Gear was dry and not a monsoon, he likely would have set the fastest time years ago). In amazement I told him how upset I get when he dies by Brad Pitt’s sword every time I watch Troy. His replay was, “Well unfortunately, we couldn’t change history.” Great guy. His film Love The Beast, about his love for cars and racing, is a must see. 

Nick Mason was also present, with his son-in-law and racing driver Marino Franchitti. And yes, Dario was there as well making the rounds. Nick Mason, for those that ask, “Nick Who?” was the drummer and founding member of Pink Floyd. His collection of cars includes just about everything, with his Ferrari 250 GTO being his most publicized and valuable ride. Though, to my surprise, I asked him what his most enjoyable car to drive is, and his answer was not the GTO, but his vintage, pre-war Aston Martin Ulster.

Also, had the pleasure to bump into Doug Demuro, who aggressively dresses exactly like he does in his videos even at super fancy car events. Respect. My friends and I chatted with him and his friend for probably a solid ten minutes. A wonderful, and I repeat, wonderful guy to talk to. He knows his cars as good as anyone I’ve ever met and truly loves the excitement and emotion that cars can bring in the driving experience. Hopefully I run into him again next year. Top bloke that Doug Demuro. 

So now to the cars. Every modern hypercar was in attendance, meaning a Zonda, a baker’s dozen of Huayras, Bugatti Chiron and the new Divo, Koenigsegg Agera, 918, McLaren’s Senna and P1 LM, Singer 911 DLS, and lots bearing the prancing horse. The all-new Z4 was on display as well, in M40i guise. The parking lot is a wonder as well, with, I kid you not, a car show of its own. Attendees leave a filled out slip on their dash in the parking areas, and judges select a best-of the parking lot. A 300SL Gullwing was the winner.

Add all these components together and this becomes something surreal. It feels like a dream, like it can’t be real. Maybe it’s a David Lynch-like dreamscape, but it’s real and genuinely authentic. Most importantly, two years in, I enjoyed it just the same if not more this time around. The novelty of it all has not worn off one bit.  And I really could go for some oysters right now. 

The Quail has become a crown jewel of Monterey Car Week, possibly even upstaging the finale that is Pebble Beach Concours. It’s a gigantic party centered around cars that I didn’t want to end. And I could look at the cars and people endlessly, but unfortunately we had to be ushered out at some point when the show was deemed finito.

I can only hope I’ll be back on the Quail’s fairways next year once again. In just two years, Quail has officially become a pastime and staple event; a highlight of my annual calendar. It’s that good. If you have the means, go. You won’t be disappointed. Only eleven months to go…