Almost four of five of Mini owners in China are women, according to an estimate by J.D. Power & Associates. For Mini, that sounds like a bad news, as that means that the brand is perceived as girly. Sean Green, head of Mini's China business, told Automotive News in an interview that the perception does not only alienate men, but also women, since a lot of women “won't want to buy a feminine brand."
So, Mini is now working to change the perception. It even has installed a pool table in its Shanghai showroom. The carmaker also recently organized an all-Mini road trip to Tibet. "You don't want to tip into being a girlie car," Green said.
Mini’s strategy is just of one of the many approaches that carmakers are taking to etch their names in China, which is now the largest auto market in the world. For Mini, China represents its fourth-largest market after the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany.
Its rivals in China include the Smart brand, Fiat 500 and the Volkswagen Beetle. Mini saw its deliveries in China surge 18 percent in the first five months of 2014 to 11,440 units, growing faster than the overall passenger-vehicle market (plus 11 percent), according to company and auto association data.
Mini even outsold Smart and Fiat 500, despite being pricier that an Audi A3 at CHY205,000 ($33,000). Munling Cheong, market research director at Shanghai-based Labbrand Enterprise Management Consulting (Shanghai) Co., remarked Mini has become as a status symbol among several Chinese women liking its style and its BMW connection.
Cheong remarked that Mini appeals to “women who are a bit playful,” since the brand itself is playful. Green quipped that to appeal to male consumers, Mini is being "overtly masculine in some of the communication style." [source: Bloomberg]