I was able to get my hands on a Mini Cooper Hardtop two-door last weekend. I'm not car shopping, right now, but when I drive someone's car, a new car, I pretend I am. I was driving the John Cooper Works factory-customized car, with specialized wheels, paint, spoiler, hand-stitched leather accoutrements, added comfort, all of the infotainment bells and whistles, and a 228hp twin turbo under the hood. It's a sporty car with a lot of kick.
It has always been my feeling that cars bearing the factory-tuned badge do more than just offer a SKU to the enthusiasts, who would be bored by the well-behaved standard model. They also sell the brand, partly because of the enthusiasm of the enthusiasts who buy cars like the John Cooper Works, and because special editions, whether bespoke, Ltd. or factory-tuned, also sell the standard model. If I have a John Cooper Works Mini, or, say, a NISMO Juke, or Ford RS or Shelby GT, MazdaSpeed, etc., I become an automatic brand ambassador, both because enthusiasts do show-and-tell on social media, and because the cars themselves drive interest, pairing, as they do, power with presentation.
I remember driving a Mini Cooper some years back when the brand first returned to the U.S. in 2002 or thereabouts. People literally ran out from the sidewalks to take a look. Now that Minis are everywhere, the people who ran out to take a look probably own one. But factory-customized cars like the Works is like espresso after the third cup of coffee: it brings back some of the original buzz.
These cars can also boost transaction prices because they showcase a range of optional and standard features. Everyone has navigation, for example, but Mini has a great one in terms of how well it functions, and the best I've used in terms intuitive interface. Experiencing that in a factory customized, bespoke-like car is like putting a painting in a great frame. And once a consumer test drives a car with features they may not even need — features they really like — they are more prone to buy that car and pay extra for some of that surprise-and-delight mojo; maybe the cool lighting behind the door handle, the bespoke steering wheel, or exterior color choices.
Up-selling a customer for non-essentials is easy when they experience something highly desirable that offers the panoply of available features, even if it costs more than he or she is willing to spend, thanks to the powers of rationalization, pre- or post-purchase. “Hell, if I’m going to be spending most of my time in this car, shouldn't I enjoy it? What’s a few extra bucks, or hundred bucks? Don’t I spend that much on coffee every year at Starbucks?” Granted, you will still spend it at Starbucks.