Autos

BMW's Mini is fighting to stay alive in SUV-obsessed America

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BMW's legendary Mini Cooper is losing its cool in an SUV era

Premium small car maker Mini acknowledges these are tough times for tiny cars in America. But as Fiat Chrysler and others retreat, Mini sees opportunity to steal customers in the small-car market.

It was a brand literally created in the midst of a fuel crisis. But the ultra-small cars designed to provide cheap and easy transportation for Britons in the 1950s and '60s became a cultural phenomenon and created the strong brand identity known around the world today.

The trouble is that bigger is now better in America, and Mini's specialty is "small." Sales have fallen from a peak of around 66,000 units in 2013 to less than 44,000 in 2018.

Taking the if-you-can't-beat-them-join-them approach, Mini has beefed up its lineup and now sells a sport utility known as the Countryman.

Mini is also, like many other automakers, betting on electric. The company debuted the Cooper SE in July.

The British car manufacturer Mini displays the Mini Cooper SE at the 2019 Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (IAA).
Micahel Debets | LightRocket | Getty Images

It might be cultural legend, but these are tough times in America for anyone selling small cars.