In a strange quirk the maker of sporty, eccentric small hatchbacks, the makers of 'The Mini' have said to land at the bottom of a U.S. vehicle quality survey was an due to careful engineering and design planning.

BMW AG says it deliberately engineers eccentric features into its cars, such as dashboard controls in unusual positions, or unfamiliar interior lighting, these are features that during marking pull its ratings down. But its these non conforming idiosyncrasies that give the mini it's personality and consequently its appeal.

"Mini has some idiosyncrasies that we engineer into our cars," says, vice president of Mini's U.S. operations. "We want to make our cars remarkable little cars."

Is this marketers spin, it will be worth considering that Mini has been among a handful of success stories in the crisis paralysing the motor industry. The car maker owned by Germany's BMW AG has seen sales fall over the last year but has snapped up market share from its bigger rivals.

Still, Mini has been plagued by below par performances the automaker finished bottom J.D. Power & Associates' annual initial quality study. The marketing and consulting company ranked 37 nameplates based on car buyers' responses about their first 90 days of ownership. Toyota's Lexus brand placed first, last year, Mini was second from the bottom. Though in J.D. Power's study of long-term reliability this year, Consumer Reports placed Mini's vehicles slightly above the middle of the pack in its annual reliability survey published in April.

Dave Sargent, J.D. Power's vice president of automotive research, reports that even though the firm does not reveal the problems owners reported with individual brands or cars, the top five problems reported in the overall study were wind noise, air conditioner or heater control problems, interior scuffing, audio control problems and brake noise.. other word minor problems.

In other words, the problems that many car owners are reporting these days are relatively minor and often concern oddities that perturb drivers rather than fundamental defects with the performance of the car.

Mini (U.S.) put Mini's poor performance in J.D. Power's most recent study to design quirks like the windshield wiper control. In the Mini, it's a button that presses rather than a knob that turns. Its cars feature adjustable ambient light colours - not an option you're likely to find in SUV's.

But dodgey or not the Mini is performing well in the niche  market having carefully cultivated a reputation for small, fuel-efficient cars that still retain a sporty feel, so much so BMW intend to expand its U.S. dealership network, something that's in stark contrast to GM or Chrysler.

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