When BMW launched the MINI brand in the U.S., the vast majority of the cars were, naturally, sold and serviced out of BMW dealerships. In fact, only eight of MINI's 80 dealerships are standalone.

The success of the brand in the U.S. shows that this strategy was certainly not an impediment to sales, but when MINI's first appearance in the J.D. Power Customer Service Index in 2005 ranked the brand a lowly 39th, well... Munich, we have a problem.

It turns out MINI owners felt like "second-class citizens" next to their Beemer brethren, so BMW has taken steps to give MINI owners a unique, MINI-branded service experience that includes dedicated MINI service personnel, MINI-branded clothing for service techs, and special service and waiting areas. You can read about one owner's new experience at his Long Beach dealership here.

Even though the changes haven't rippled through the entire dealer network, the results are remarkable: J.D. Power's 2006 Customer Service Index placed MINI 9th, the most improved brand in the survey.

[Source: Autoweek]