Want an Electric Mini Cooper? First, You Must Qualify to Buy One

Posted: February 10, 2009

BMW's Mini division has a problem most automakers would love to have: too many people want to buy its cars. Specifically, they want an electric version of the wildly popular Mini Cooper. The company can't build enough examples of its proposed electric Mini to meet demand. While most automakers struggle to attract buyers, Mini has to figure out which buyers to choose.

In fact, nearly 2,000 people have applied to lease one of the 450 available cars. The German solution? A checklist, of course.

Autoblog Green explains, "There are a number of guidelines that must be met to receive a new MINI E, such as the average daily driving distance required. So far, the list has shrunk down to 1,000 applicants that have made it through the first set of cuts. All those who are chosen will live in or around Los Angeles, New York or New Jersey, have a lockable garage," and, of course, be able to make lease payments that would make a Maserati dealer blush -- $850 a month.

In a press release carried on Jalopnik, BMW explains, "Of the 500 U.S. vehicles, 450 will be leased to customers that applied online at MINIUSA.com to be part of the one-year field study." The remaining 50 are being leased to cities and utility companies for similar testing.

The payment doesn't just cover the car, however. Automobile Magazine reports, "Mini is installing a special wall box into each Mini E customer's garage that can fully recharge a drained battery in just 2.5 hours."

Since the cars are considered an experiment by BMW, it isn't yet clear what conditions lessees will have to agree to in order to take delivery of the car. In similar tests by other automakers, such as Honda's FCX Clarity fuel-cell fleet test in Southern California and a similar GM fuel-cell test, participants have not had the option of buying the car at the end of the lease period. If that's the case with Mini's test fleet, participants are essentially signing up to pay $850 a month to rent a Mini E for a year. We're excited about the car, but not sure about the wisdom of spending more than ten grand to help BMW test something. It will be interesting to see how many of the remaining 1,000 or so buyers are still willing to pay once they read the terms and conditions.

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