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MINI Is Maxing Out On Small Car Craze

2008 Mini Cooper hardtop
Source: miniusa.com
2008 Mini Cooper hardtop

This is what they call the "sweet spot." When you have the right car ready to roll off showroom floors at the right time. For MINI, this is that time.

With gas prices surging, buyers are not only taking a new look at compacts, they are snapping up the pint sized cars. Sure, theSmart Fortwo is getting plenty of press and more than 6,100 have been sold since the car hit showrooms in January.

Meanwhile Honda's Fit (sales up 68.7%), Toyota's Yaris (sales up 58.3%)and Nissan's Versa (sales up 24.4%) are all leading the "B" car boom.

But it's MINI that may be best positioned right now. With sales up 29.9% this year, The MINI Cooper and Clubman are compact cars with the unique combination of style and fuel efficiency in a tight little package.

And despite what you think about the current rotation into small cars, buyers this time do not just want an econo-box. They want a ride that offers them the creature comforts they've come to expect in larger cars and SUVs.

That's the true lesson automakers are learning from this move towards smaller cars. Unlike the gas crisis of the mid 70's, buyers this time around want mileage AND style. Listen, back then, Toyota and Honda won over buyers with small, reliable, and fuel efficient cars that were, for the most part, lined with forgettable interiors and exteriors that rarely turned heads. That kind of basic approach won't fly this time around.

Which is why MINI is perfectly positioned to gain buyers. The MINI Cooper and Clubman do not make you feel as though you are being penalized for driving a small car. And aside from the latest incarnation of the VW Beetle ('08 sales down 0.8%), there are few other compact cars that have attracted as much attention.

As they say, sometimes it pays to be in the right place at the right time with the right product. That's the case with MINI right now.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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