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BMW's Mini Just Keeps Getting Mightier

With a convertible set to hit showrooms, its surprise smash is minting money

The Stat
When BMW dealers start selling the new Mini convertible in Europe and the U.S. this summer, the cars will be delivered to customers with the top down and a seal that is broken when the roof is raised for the first time. Buyers will be asked to sign a mock contract committing them to keeping the roof down as long as they can -- to stay true to the Mini convertible's open-minded spirit. "It will spark contests to see how long owners can go before breaking the seal," says Jack Pitney, vice-president of Mini USA.

That's pure Mini marketing cheek. And it works. The two-year-old remake of the 1959 British classic is becoming one of the most successful model overhauls in automotive history. Sales of 176,000 cars last year were up 22.4% from 2002, and the Mini factory in Oxford, England, is running full tilt. Although BMW doesn't break out the Mini's earnings, Deutsche Bank estimates that the unit produced a pretax profit of $61.5 million last year, on revenues of $3.4 billion. That is an impressive result when compared with ongoing losses at Mercedes-Benz (DCX ) from its compact A-class and the supersmall Smart. "It's much more profitable than we expected," says Chief Financial Officer Stefan Krause.