Mini Countryman goes local

Thai-built model will be more affordable

Prices for the Mini Countryman are set to become more affordable in Thailand when locally assembled versions hit showrooms next month.

The Countryman can soon be had for less than 2 million baht.

The decision to start building Minis in the country follows a desire by BMW, owner of the iconic British brand, to expand its business and sales volume.

It will be the first time a Mini has ever been made in Thailand, which follows Malaysia and India in importing knocked-down kits from the Countryman's main production hub in Graz, Austria.

Company sources said the fashionable sport-utility vehicle was chosen over other Minis due to its sales success.

Last year, the Thai office sold 500 Minis, of which the Countryman represented half.

The versions to be finished at BMW's flexible assembly facility in Rayong include the 122-horsepower Cooper petrol head as well as the 112-hp Cooper D and 143-hp Cooper SD diesel variants.

All three are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, with the Cooper SD being exclusively offered with four-wheel-drive hardware.

Pricing is yet be finalised, but it is hoped the cheapest model will kick out at just under 2 million baht.

In fully imported form, the Countryman costs between 2.5 and 3.2 million baht, depending on the model.

Production and investment figures are not yet available, but an executive noted that assembly is not complex since the Countryman can be made on the same production lines as today's core BMWs.

While the availability of a Thai-built Countryman will be welcomed by Mini enthusiasts, BMW Thailand is offering more attractive warranty and maintenance packages for imported models.

There are no immediate plans to assemble other Mini models, as most are ageing into their second generation.

The second most popular Mini in Thailand is the three-door Hatch, which enters its third generation next year.

A source said the Graz facility is more adept at supplying knocked-down kits to other countries than the one in Oxford, England, where the Hatch and most other Minis are made for world markets.

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Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor