Secret MINI Plan behind “Build Your Own” Program

April 3, 2006

The much ballyhooed ability of prospective MINI buyers to customize their cars is giving way to a “Build Your Own” program, according to a MINI release last Saturday that was dated April 1 but released April 3 by BMW Group, parent company of MINI and the world’s largest maker of premium motor cars.

Right now MINIUSA.com lets customers customize their car online before ordering. This is so popular that MINI decided to create a unique pilot program to give select customers the opportunity to actually create the car of their dreams with their own hands. In a pilot program that emulates the legal homebuilding of aircraft by members of the Experimental Aircraft Association, all of the car’s components can be specially ordered online and the parts will be delivered in installments, starting with the chassis parts and bodywork and then moving on to interior trim and engine.

“In six short weeks the customer can build their custom MINI in their own garage,” said Lou Speases, MINI’s head of what is called the Individualized Direct Ideal Order Trial (IDIOT) program. Speases concedes the greatest hurdle is in painting the body, but it will send owners paints of their choice, one color for the body and one for the contrasting roof.
The new program will also be made into a reality TV program, according to MINI. “We plan to chronicle a year of creative MINI owners in action building their own cars,” according to MINI. The brand expects the television broadcast to air at the start of April 2007.

MINI USA reported March sales of 3851 automobiles, down seven percent from the 4127 cars sold in March 2005. Year-to-date, the division reported sales of 9,485 automobiles, seven percent less than the 10,184 cars reported in the first quarter of 2005 through its 80 MINI dealers.

The program could be interpreted as yet another innovative way to promote MINI sales. However, sources close to the release say that “Build Your Own is actually part of a larger secret study at BMW Group on the feasibility of eliminating expensive dealers, troublesome union workers, and expensive robots. A spokesperson for MINI did not immediately respond to TCC requests for comment, but instead filed them along with April Fool’s jokes perpetrated on hapless auto journalists who take press-release copy at face value. —Ken Zino

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