The New MINI PAGE: Ordering a MINI

The "Boot" Badge.

What is it like to special order a new foreign car? The thought could be kind of daunting. There's so much which can go wrong between "there" and "here".

Surprisingly, thanks to BMW's planning and organization, my ordering experience was all pretty logical and painless. When they envisioned the manufacturing and marketing of the New MINI, they forsaw that this would be a car which many would want to personalize. There is, in fact, no standard MINI configuration because about 96% of MINI Cooper S models and 70% of MINI Coopers are custom-ordered by their owners and the rest are spec'd by dealers. Out of a field of 100,000 new MINIs, it is projected that only five will be exactly alike. As a result, BMW designed the New MINI assembly plant to easily facilitate custom orders. The order information is maintained electronically, from dealer to plant and back. The cars are followed throughout the plant via body-mounted transponders and a computer system which keeps the order information right at the finger-tips of the technicians who assemble the cars.

Here's my experience with ordering a MINI: Between November 2002 and the end of January 2003, I studied and test drove the MINI. I read reviews, and there were plenty available at that time because the MINI was on its way to becoming the North American CAR OF THE YEAR. I accessed enthusiast web sites and scoured all the product literature I could find. On MINI2.COM and MINI Cooper Online, I found lots of info and personal experiences with options, shipping, and order tracking. With the Second Persian Gulf War looming and trade interruptions appearing imminent, on January 20, 2003, I decided I'd better get on with it and order one. With the support of my dear wife, I was going to order my MINI exactly like I wanted it. A "configurator" program generated this mockup picture of the car, sans the racing stripes my wife urged me to add at the last moment:

The dealer used one of his monthly allocated pre-ordered cars, re-spec'ing it with my configuration so there would be a fairly short wait. My car was estimated to go into production a month after my order. Knowing how excited I was, my "Motoring Advisor" pointed me to the Order Tracking section of MINI Owner's Lounge on the MINIUSA website, where I could watch the progress of my order, be notified when the car was being built, and follow the shipping process.

When I first accessed the site and my order info, the old dealer specifications were still in place. As my Motoring Advisor warned, it took about three days for my specifications to show up on my order. When they made the change, they listed the model, the color, the packages, and the options I had selected so that I could either confirm that my order was correct or change any option. Everything was in order and I stuck with my spec's so I changed nothing. After two weeks, the order status began to change and the range of options I could change decreased until, finally, just before assembly, the configuration of the car was fixed. This obviously tracked with the process of ordering from the sub-contractors the parts necessary to create my car. As I left for a short second honeymoon at the end of February, the car entered production. It struck me as amazing that I could know as soon as my little car began being assembled and could see what phase it was in at any given time. The car was completed in four days. On February 22nd, it was received by the Wallenius Wilhelmsen shipping corporation in Southampton, UK, and held to be loaded aboard a ship. On March 3rd, it was loaded on the Jingu Maru car transport ship and it's voyage to the New World began. I followed the ship across the big pond via the "Ocean Weather" website until it arrived at the receiving terminal in New Jersey. Tracking details are available on MINI2.COM. On March 7th, here's where my car was in the Atlantic:

Click on the graphic for a larger view

On March 10th, the ship ran into a large storm off the coast of New England and lost a day fighting headwinds. On March 13th, the Jingu Maru docked at the BMW vehicle processing center in New York. It showed up as "off-loaded" on the 14th.

Unloading at the VPC

Once the Jingu Maru reached American shores, tracking broke down a little and I had to rely on the dealer's experience and internet heresay to project a delivery date. Nevertheless, the car arrived ahead of projections and I ended up scrambling to finalize my financing options. Though it showed as "at the Vehicle Processing Center" on the 20th, I got the call from my motoring advisor at 1:50pm, Friday March 21st. The car had arrived but would need to be prepped and have the final options added before it could be picked up. I slipped down to the dealer's back lot, sneaked a peek, and shot a few pictures. Sure enough, everything was as it should have been.

      Outside the dealer's prep building.     ~ and ~   The car's interior, bagged for transport.
Click pics for a larger view.

The Cooper S Side Marker Light.

Boy, it was hard to hold in our excitment for the last four days of waiting! Delivery was at 8:30pm on Tuesday, March 25th, 2003, two months and five days after we put in the order. Click HERE to see pics from the delivery of the Red Rocket. By the time my MINI arrived, the average wait for a special-order MINI Cooper S at my dealership had grown to around four months.

Click HERE to see my journal entries over the period of the order and our first months with the car.

My New MINI Homepage: CLICK HERE