The surge in demand for small crossovers means a likely sales rebound for Mini, courtesy of the redesigned Countryman.
Brand executives expect the 2017 Countryman, which went on sale in early March, to surpass its sales from 2015 and 2016. And it has "great potential" to top the Countryman's record sales year of 22,645 vehicles in 2014, said Patrick McKenna, head of product planning and aftersales for Mini USA. He said the Countryman won't reach its full potential in 2017 with the redesigned vehicle available for only a partial year.
The Countryman crossover is Mini's largest vehicle, and it grew with the redesign. For a lot of consumers, it is the right size with a lot of utility, McKenna said, but it's still a Mini boasting the brand's fun-to-drive attributes. "It's the right Mini at the right time," McKenna said. "The small-SUV segment is a really great segment to be in right now. Americans have a love affair with trucks."
McKenna declined to share projected sales volume or the expected percentage increase in sales.
Mini sold 12,706 Countrymans in 2016, the model's second straight year of decline. Sales drops are typical at the end of a product cycle. With industrywide demand for small cars waning, Mini's overall sales also have fallen after peaking at 66,502 in 2013. Mini sales dropped 11 percent in 2016 to 52,030 vehicles. The Countryman redesign should help Mini gain sales overall, too, McKenna said.
The Countryman will be Mini's biggest marketing campaign in 2017 and "probably the biggest launch that we've ever had as a company," said McKenna, who also is Mini's interim head of marketing. He wouldn't detail the planned marketing spend but said the brand's overall 2017 marketing spend will be "somewhat flat" year over year.
TV spots for the Countryman began airing in early March. The message is simple: This is the brand's biggest and most adventurous Mini yet, McKenna said. Commercials are airing on several cable networks such as ESPN and HGTV. In a special tie-in, a National Geographic photographer uses the Countryman to do location photo shoots.
Dealers are anticipating the redesigned Countryman, hoping it will boost the brand's sales per dealership, which fell 12 percent in 2016 at Mini's 126 locations to 417 vehicles.
The redesigned Countryman could reverse that trend, McKenna said. He added: "It has the potential to really be a home run for this brand."