As fuel prices have risen, demand for the Mini Cooper has outstripped supply.
They're working three shifts, seven days a week at the Mini plant in Oxford, England, but apparently it's not enough. When you build about 800 cars a day for 80 markets around the world - most of which are experiencing gas pains - you can't possibly deliver fast enough.
And here in this nation, the U.S.'s 82 Mini franchises are simply out of cars. Anything you see on the Mini lot is probably a previously ordered car that's waiting for its new owner. All dealers can do now is take orders and deliver pre-ordered units for the rest of the year.
"For the last three months, we were selling from inventory," said Jim McDowell, vice president of BMW's Mini division. "There's no way (July) can be as good."
McDowell said that dealers have a one-day supply of cars and that 81 percent of the cars delivered this month have been those that consumers have configured and ordered.
In June, Mini sold 5,211 units, up 24.8 percent from the same month last year. That followed sales increases of 52.8 percent in May and 39.4 percent in April.
Through the first half of the year, Mini sales are up 33.6 percent to 26,400 units.
Dealers who have been asking for more cars won't get much satisfaction soon. Mini will boost production for the United States, but only by between 2,000 and 3,000 cars this year.
McDowell also said Mini plans to expand its dealership network to 95 stores by 2011 partly based on its sales success and partly because some dealers are too far apart to service customers.
Maybe this all has nothing to do with the gas crunch. Maybe people are just waking up to the idea that motoring can be fun when you're in the right vehicle.
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