Back when the MINI Cooper S first launched in 2001, I was driving one for a piece I was writing in the Boston Globe. In rush hour traffic at the very end of Storrow Drive just before 93, lights started flashing all over the dashboard. The temp needle had reached the red end of its arc, and suddenly, steam was evacuating from under the hood. (I won’t call it a “bonnet,” since I’m not British or a pretentious asshole).
I quickly got it to the side of the road, opened the rear hatch and whipped out the MINI toolkit (i.e., a cell phone and the 800 number for roadside assistance).
I figured I could have the car towed to a BMW dealer on Route 1 and have my wife pick me up as she left her office in Norwood. I wouldn’t be more than ten minutes later than I would ordinarily.
Not so fast. The BMW dealer in Norwood isn’t a MINI franchise and therefore, the wrecker would be dropping me and the car off in perhaps the most inconvenient location possible: Commonwealth Ave. in Boston. No loaner car, no T fare, nothing. My wife had to drive into town during rush hour to pick me up. We ended up getting home at 8:30.
And that was when I was close to that particular dealer.
Almost 10 years later, the question remains: What if I was in Worcester or Williamstown?
If I was in Worcester, I’d be getting schlepped 40 miles to Boston.
If I’d taken a ride out to beautiful Williamstown, to visit the Clark Art Museum for the day, I’d be going 40 miles in the opposite direction, to Keeler MINI in Latham, New York, just north of Albany.
MINI, I love your cars. The Cooper Clubman seems to me to be the perfect commuter, with enough room for a couple of kids in car seats in back, plus gas mileage that rivals a Prius.
But you’ve got to figure out a better solution for getting your customers where they need to be. The parent company should be hauling cars to the closest BMW dealer as a courtesy the customer, then transparently getting the cars to the closest MINI franchise.
Otherwise, it means that you really don’t offer a roadside assistance program on these cars, putting you at a serious competitive disadvantage.
Imagine what would happen if you found yourself in (God forbid) Athol?