Fans of new Mini face long queues for short sensation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 March, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 March, 2001, 12:00am

The new Mini Cooper arrived in Hong Kong yesterday with buyers racing to order 35 cars within three hours of the launch - in spite having to wait about a year for their delivery.

Manufacturer BMW is not due to roll out the first of the revamped Minis until at least January next year.

The company's version of the car is a larger-than-life recreation of the Alec Issigonis design that had worldwide sales of more than five million in the 40 years it was built in Britain.

'I like the new style - it's futuristic in a retro kind of way,' said one 31-year-old Australian.

Priced between $150,000 and $210,000, the car features a fresh design, new technology and more leg-room. But despite its huge following elsewhere, it is unlikely to have mass appeal in Hong Kong.

'It is a niche market and not in the realm of models which have sales of 1,000 a month,' said Mike Rushworth, vice-chairman of the Motor Traders Association.

He said while European cars were gaining ground, Japanese cars still held most of the market in Hong Kong - 63 per cent compared to European cars' 28 per cent. Car sales slumped in January and February, down 22 per cent on last year, due mainly to an earlier Lunar New Year holiday.

'But sales are picking up now and I am sure the new model will be popular,' Mr Rushworth said. 'Anything that is trendy and has a good brand name I would think will do well in Hong kong.'

BMW marketing manager Newman Tsang said the modern Mini would appeal to trend setters, young people and the young-at-heart. 'Owning a Mini is more than a trend - it's also fun. People who already own a BMW for business use may want a fun car to drive on Saturdays and Sundays,' he said.

Other first-time viewers of the new Mini on show at Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, Erhard and Christl Schaefer said: 'It's very good, very modern.'