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How do I track my US MINI once it's ordered?

First, a clarification:

Placing a deposit and/or giving specs to your dealer does not mean you have ordered your MINI.

Dealers receive allocations for a particular month's build about 5 - 6 weeks prior to the actual build month (eg. June 2002 build allocations were issued on April 26th). Once your spot on the waiting list comes up, your dealer will modify an existing allocation for your model to meet the specs you have supplied. The dealer then will give you a 7 digit production number which you can use to track your MINI.

Next, a warning:

Tracking your MINI may be more stressful than simply waiting for your dealer to call you to come pick it up. This is because you may become aware of delays, but you may not be able to learn the reason or the anticipated length of the delays. This can lead to a great deal of frustration. On the other hand, if everything works smoothly, you will be able to enjoy knowing at what particular stage your car is in the whole process.

Once your MINI has been ordered (ie. you have a production number), you may start tracking it by contacting MINIUSA customer service or visting the Owners' Lounge on the MINIUSA website. Later when production of your MINI has completed, you can use the Wallenius Wilhelmsen website to track its voyage across the pond. Details on all three tracking methods follow.


MINIUSA Customer Service Tracking

MINIUSA customer service is available at 1-866-ASK MINI (1-866-275-6464). Be prepared to give them your 7 digit production number, or once it's been assigned, the last 7 characters of the VIN for your MINI. Since they have access to the same order tracking system as your dealer, they can provide the most up-to-date information on the status of your MINI before it departs the UK and after it arrives in the US. The only reasons to call your dealer after you've received a production number is to change or correct the specs on your MINI before it's scheduled for production, or to find out when you can pick it up after it arrives at your dealer.

The following numeric status codes are commonly used internally to track the progress of your MINI:

037 Order is at BMW NA [ON ORDER]
087 Production Week Assigned
097 Order sent to factory
111 Order Accepted at factory
112 Order scheduled for Production
150 Production Started [SCHEDULED FOR PRODUCTION]
151 Body Shop Started
152 Paint Shop Started
153 Assembly Started
155 Production Completed
160 Released to Distribution
182 Released to Carrier [AWAITING TRANSPORTATION]
193 Arrived at Port of Exit [RECEIVED AT TERMINAL]
194 Selected for Shipment [LOADED ON VESSEL]
195 Shipped from Port of Exit [EN ROUTE]
196 Shipment Arrival [DISCHARGED]

Notes:

  • Specific dates many not be available for each status code
  • Cross-references to status appearing at MINIUSA's Owners' Lounge and Wallenius Wilhelmsen's Cargo Tracking are SWAG ;)


MINIUSA Website Tracking

Before you can start tracking your MINI on the MINIUSA website, you must:

  1. Obtain the production number or VIN
    To track the whereabouts of a MINI that has been ordered from a US dealer, you will need the car's production number OR the VIN (vehicle identification number). The production number is 7 digits (numerical) and will be supplied by your dealer once your order is placed. The VIN is 17 digits (alphanumerical) and will probably not be known until a short time before the date of scheduled production.
  2. Sign Up in the Owners' Lounge
    Visit www.miniusa.com and click Owners' Lounge. It's in the Owners' Lounge that you can track the progress of your MINI from the factory to your dealer. Sign up using your carís production number or VIN. The Owners' Lounge is available for existing MINI owners and buyers who have placed an order, but don't yet have their cars. So, estimate the purchase date and enter zero for the mileage questions since you don't own a MINI yet.
MINIs are tracked in the Owners' Lounge through 6 separate steps:

  1. ON ORDER
    The factory recognizes your order and has assigned a production number for your MINI. During this step an estimated build date will also be given. These dates are usually that of a Friday, and indicate a car will be produced by rather than on this date.

    Upon your first visit to the Owners' Lounge, and periodically thereafter, make sure you select Review Order Detail to see basic details on the model, paint color and many of the carís options. More specific information about your MINI may appear as the estimated production date nears. Contact your dealer if the details shown do not match the car your are expecting. Once the status of your MINI proceeds to the next step, you cannot change your specs.
  2. SCHEDULED FOR PRODUCTION
    A date has been identfied for your MINI to be built. This date is approximate, so don't be surprised if the date is moved forward or backward in time before the car is actually assembled. Check back often to see if your date has changed. The day of the week your MINI is actually welded together, painted, and driven off the end of the production line may not actually match the date shown, but will likely occur just before your production date. Perhaps a week or two before the scheduled date of production, your MINI may be assigned a VIN which will appear in the Owners' Lounge.
  3. AWAITING TRANSPORT
    Surprise! Your MINI has been built! It is now on the journey from the factory in Oxford via auto transporter truck to the docks in Southampton. From there it will be placed aboard a ship that will bring it from England to the US.
  4. EN ROUTE
    Your new MINI is at sea. The amount of time your MINI is at sea is affected by many factors including weather, speed of the ship, number of ports of call, and at which port your MINI will be taken off of the ship (among other things). The voyage from England will typically range from 9-12 days to the US east coast, and perhaps 3-4 weeks to the west coast including transit through the Panama Canal. Tracking through the Wallenius Wilhelmsen website is detailed later.
  5. AT VEHICLE DISTRIBUTION CENTER (aka Vehicle Processing Center Ė VPC)
    Your MINI has arrived in the US and is undergoing final inspection and quality assurance. There are three VPCís used for MINIs arriving in the US: New York (actually New Jersey), Charleston SC, and a west coast facility in Oxnard CA adjacent to Port Hueneme. MINIs have been known to spend as little as several days up to more than 3 or 4 weeks or longer at the VPC before being shipped by truck to the dealer. What is a VPC like? Have a look at these informative external links: NEAT in New York and Port Hueneme in California (sorry nothing on the VPC in Charleston at this time).
  6. AT YOUR DEALER
    Finally! As it says, the day youíve been waiting and waiting for has arrived. Your MINI is now at your dealer and is waiting for you to take it home.
NOTE: Many people have discovered that the MINI tracking data in the Owners' Lounge is updated very infrequently. For example you may learn outside sources (ie. the Wallenius Wilhelmsen website) that you MINI is actually on a ship heading to the US long before the Owners' Lounge acknowledges that fact.


Wallenius Wilhelmsen Website Tracking

Once your MINI is built and released to distribution, it is transported from the factory by auto transport truck to the port at Southampton. From there it will make the voyage across the Atlantic aboard a Wallenius Wilhelmsen vessel to one of three US ports of destination ... New York, Charleston (SC) or Port Hueneme (CA).

Once you have an estimated production date listed at MINI USA's Owners' Lounge, and even before production has started, you can find out on which vessel your MINI might be booked. Just click on the Wallenius Wilhelmsen site to do a Search by Ports from the drop down menu to see which vessel leaves Southampton after your estimated production date and is bound for one of the three ports adjacent to a Vehicle Processing Center (VPC) closest to your dealer. That means the ports of either New York, Charleston SC, or the single west coast port of Port Hueneme CA.

Since estimated production dates have been know to ping-pong, it's probably less stressful to wait until your MINI has been assigned a VIN number and has started production. Then you can click Auto at WW Cargo Tracking and use your MINI's entire 17 digits (alphanumeric) VIN as the Cargo ID (it used to work with only the last 7 characters of the VIN). Tracking will display a Cargo Status History, showing your MINI as one or more of the following:

  • BOOKED
  • RECEIVED AT TERMINAL
  • LOADED ON VESSEL
  • DISCHARGED (at Port of Destination)
Having your MINI BOOKED and RECEIVED AT TERMINAL does not ensure it being LOADED on the specified vessel. Some MINIs have even been LOADED only to be REMOVED and then BOOKED on a later departing vessel. To avoid frustration, check to see that your MINI is still LOADED a day or two after its intended vessel departs Southampton.

Other interesting information listed on the Cargo Status History is Vessel, Voyage ID and Booking Number. Clicking the Voyage ID will display the sailing schedule for your vessel. You can also go back to WW Cargo Tracking after your vessel has sailed and then track by Booking Number to find out how many other MINIs are onboard with yours. For those with too much time on their hands, visit this US Coast Guard site to find your MINI-carrying ship's "call sign". Then, with the call sign in hand, visit the Ocean Weather site to look for your ship's call sign and current location at sea by scanning the Marine Observations pages.



UPDATE: 31 July 2002 Please note that the Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines website (as detailed above) continues to remain a valuable resource of shipping information allowing a MINI owner-to-be to track a MINI as it is shipped.

However, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines has indicated that BMW/MINI has advised them to no longer attempt to respond to personal email or phone calls from individual MINI purchasers regarding individual MINI shipping details. Wallenius Wilhelmsen simply does not have the resources to deal with responding to queries from individual MINI owners-to-be. Instead, all email or phone call inquiries regarding MINI shipments are to handled by contacting MINIUSA (1-866-ASK-MINI) or through the buyerís local MINI dealership.


Contact FAQ Custodian


How long does it take for a MINI to go from the factory to a US dealer?

It varies greatly.

Once a MINI comes of the end of the production line things may just fall into place and the car will move through the distribution chain very quickly. Or, there may be one or more delays.

In a simplified form, this is the distribution chain for cars going to the mainland USA:

Assembled in MINI factory in Oxford, UK
Shipped by auto transporter truck to the port of Southampton, UK
Placed aboard a ship
Ocean transit
Removed from ship at VPC
VPC inspects and QCs cars
VPC releases to enclosed truck for delivery to dealer
Dealer prepares and delivers car to new owner

If the timing and logistics are just right, a MINI will sail through this process relatively quickly. However, if any one part is just a little off, a series of delays may begin. This may start with the MINI spending a week or more waiting at the factory grounds in Oxford before being shipped by train to the docks in Southampton. Once at the docks, a MINI may quickly get aboard a ship, or it may play the waiting game, being scheduled to board a ship, only to be pulled off and stuck waiting for the next available ship. This is because some of the MINIs are 'waitlisted' by the shipping company, and may be bumped only to go back to 'waitlisted' status, trying for space available on the next ship.

Following ocean transit, a MINI arrives off the ship at a BMW-owned Vehicle Processing Center (VPC). The MINI may be at the VPC for just several days or it can stay in limbo for three weeks or even longer. It is at the VPC that the MINI undergoes final inspections and quality control, including rectification of faults or updates of components or software. Once all the hurdles are cleared at the VPC, MINIs are transported via enclosed car transporter truck to dealers. Obviously the greater the distance from the VPC to the dealer, the longer the trip will take.

The quickest time from factory floor to the US MINI dealer may be as soon as under four weeks to an east cost MINI dealer if everything falls into place just so. (Ocean shipment to the west coast naturally takes longer - typically at least two additional weeks). However, because of a variety of circumstances MINIs may take six to eight weeks (or even longer) after being built before showing up at a MINI dealer.


Contact FAQ Custodian


What checks should be made when taking delivery?

The Motley Fool, an investment and financial information website, offers some general guidelines and a checklist to use the day you pick up your new baby.

Well in advance of your delivery date, you should review this list, and also:

  1. find a copy of the owners' manual and read it over at least once, so you are familiar with the features on your MINI and can ask relevant questions when your sales-person goes over them

    Note: Manual available in MINIUSA Owners' Lounge
  2. ask your sales-person how much time will be taken in demonstrating and discussing the features on your MINI, and demand more if it's not at least an hour
  3. let your sales-person know if you:
    • want any of the 'memory' options programmed as part of the dealer prep
    • don't want the front license plate holder installed
    • want the window sticker saved for posterity
Aside from understanding the features of your MINI, the most important thing you need to do before driving off is giving your car a thorough visual inspection. Now is the time to find any exterior or interior blemishes. Coming back later, you'll be hard pressed to prove a scratch in the paint or a tear in the upholstery was there before you took delivery. This inspection should be done in the daytime under natural lighting.

While you can always come back to have mechanical faults fixed under warranty, it doesn't hurt to take your MINI (and sales-person) for quick a spin around the block, just to ensure that everything "feels and sounds right".

During the break-in period, keep a close eye on fluid (oil, coolant and brake) levels. You may want to pre-order and take some of the following home with you:
  • bottle of coolant to top-off the radiator overflow reservoir (if the cooling system "burps" an airlock out)
  • extra oil filter for mid-interval oil change (if you choose to do this before the recommended 10,000 miles)
  • extra quart/liter of Castrol synthetic to top-off the oil level during the break-in period (if the engine consumes some during the first few thousand miles)
Also, check your tire pressure as soon as possible, as many owners have found their tires to be grossly over or under inflated.


toofast, gromit, MCS1, chiph, MINICS, Nowhere - contributions


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