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 |  Mar 23 2012, 6:31 PM

American motorists’ mentalities were very different a decade ago. Gas was selling at $1.25 a gallon, and thirsty SUVs like the Hummer H2 were popular.

Fast forward to today and gas prices are more than triple the old average. That translates to buyer’s increasing interest in smaller, more fuel-efficient models like the MINI Cooper.

“MINI launched in the U.S. during the time when gas was cheap and large trucks and SUV’s ruled the road. Many thought the brand would be a one-hit wonder, and we are extremely proud that we were able to surprise some [of] the toughest critics, and at times, even ourselves,” MINI USA vice president Jim McDowell said.

Despite that skepticism, the company is celebrating a decade of sales and growth in the U.S., and steady upward progress. Most recently the company debuted its 2013 Countryman John Cooper Works edition, which is a more performance-oriented take on its largest offering to date. The Countryman is an example of how the company grew over the past 10 years.

The MINI brand first opened shop in San Francisco back in 2002, at a time when many didn’t think a funky, European hatchback had any place on the vast Interstates of America, a land where gas was cheap and size mattered most.

Many felt this premium small car brand, under BMW ownership didn’t have much of a chance of surviving in the States, especially because it started as a one-model company.

Soon, MINI expanded by introducing more models including not-so-small options. This eventually lead to the six choices you see today and a healthy customer base.