U.S. Mini Owners want rear fog lights

By Richard Truett, Automotive News / April 28, 2003

Hundreds of Mini owners in the United States are seeing red over a safety device for their cars that BMW Group won't turn on.

The item? Rear fog lights.

BMW won't make the lights available to U.S. Mini customers, even as a dealer-installed option, though the lights are standard equipment on cars sold in Europe and most of the equipment already is installed in U.S. market Minis.

As of last week, 626 Mini owners had signed an Internet petition at petitiononline.com/MINI fogs/petition.html requesting that BMW enable the rear fog lights to be activated on their cars.

BMW Group had sold 32,773 Minis in the United States as of April 1.

Activation of the lights requires the installation of a toggle switch and a change in the car's computer software.

The lights are housed in the upper section of the taillights.

Other automakers, such as Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, offer rear fog lights, which are of the same brightness as the brake lights.

According to postings on the Mini Web site (MiniUSA.com), many owners want the rear fog lights activated because they fear drivers of trucks won't see their small cars in bad weather.

No other issue has generated as much fuss among Mini owners.

"I have rear fog lights on my Jaguar and use them frequently in low-visibility conditions," wrote Mini owner Al Carr of Shenandoah Valley, Va.

"We have had several severe truck/car accidents during foggy periods. I cannot imagine why Mini USA would disable this important safety feature. I will gladly pay the dealer to turn them on. Please don't delay this."

Michael McHale, Mini communications manager, says BMW's product marketing group, which decides the content in vehicles, opted to make rear fog lights unavailable on the U.S. version of the Mini.

He says Mini and BMW officials are aware of the group of owners asking for the lights, but there are no plans to reverse the product group's decision.

The matter is not scheduled to be discussed again, McHale says.

Some Mini owners who are frustrated over BMW's refusal to offer the lights have figured out how to make them work by soldering a connection in the taillight circuit board.

"There's a minimum lighting requirement that we meet," McHale says.

"We are comfortable with the lighting performance of our cars."

The refusal to offer the lights flies in the face of the friendly relationships that Mini has worked to establish with its customers.

"We just don't do it," McHale says. "No BMWs have them, either."