2004 New York Auto Show, Part III Page 2

April 12, 2004

Mini goes open-air

At least for the moment, Mini appears to be the only automaker on the American market not offering incentives, yet dealer inventories
2005 Mini Cooper convertible

2005 Mini Cooper convertible

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are down to a meager five-day supply, says Jack Pitney, the U.S. General Manager of the British brand. And the Mini team intends to keep it that way by developing a steady stream of new spin-offs. The latest is the Mini convertible, the smallest ragtop sold in America. During a New York preview, Pitney suggested the vehicle would more aptly be described as "the world's first street-legal go-kart." With the top down it even has the same view as a go-kart. What possessed Mini to develop a convertible is a golden opportunity to enter a global market that has grown four-fold in the past four years, 60 percent of convertible sales coming in the U.S.   Mini’s open-air model features a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine and a host of safety features, including disc brakes all around, and ABS. According to Pitney, the vehicle can be "You-ified," with a choice of eleven exterior colors (with matching dash and door panels) and several leather and fabric selections. The top is available in blue, green, or black. It's the first convertible to feature both a heated rear window glass and a 16" sunroof built into the convertible top. The Mini convertible will be introduced in September of this year in both the Cooper, and Cooper S models. It will carry a price of approximately $22,000, about $5000 more than the hardtop model. (Al Vinikour)

What gas crisis?

While rising fuel prices may make for anxious headlines, “We’ve yet to see any impact on purchases,” said Ford Vice President Mike O’Driscoll. The polls show that the cost of gasoline is perhaps the single biggest issue to motorists, yet O’Driscoll told TheCarConnection it is not showing up as a factor at the showroom, where “interest in big luxury cars and big SUVs continues like never before.” O’Driscoll said he is confident there won’t be any shift in purchase patterns, but if it did, there are some ways the industry could compensate. InEurope, diesels are becoming one of the most popular options for luxury motorists. Several manufacturers are exploring interest in diesels here in the States, including Mercedes-Benz, which is just launching the diesel version of its E-Class line. But O’Driscoll cautioned it would be “two to three years” before luxury makers could shift to diesels on a large scale for the U.S. (TCC Team)


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