Mini pondering an off-road adventure
24 November 2006
Author: Hugh Hunston
BMW is considering taking its highly successful Mini off-road as engineers and stylists work on a chunky 4x4 crossover based on the Traveller five-door 'wagon' concept.
Unlikely to reach showrooms before 2010, the all-wheel-drive Mini will use a compact 'intelligent' transmission system and a flexible, funky interior packaging format to underline the brand's trendy lifestyle image.
One BMW Group insider said: "We have many concepts, which may or may not become realities, but there is a strong brand and sales-generating logic behind a Mini 4x4 crossover, particularly as the USA could soon overtake the UK as a market."
Some 40,000 Minis were sold in the USA last year, which makes the country a prime target market for a small 4x4/crossover. As a result, BMW could be tempted to build the 'softroader' at its Spartanburg, South Carolina factory, particularly if a pick-up variant was added to the line up.
DaimlerChrysler's Smart division received a positive American response to its Smart ForMore micro-SUV project in 2004 (although the Brazilian-built project was scrapped because the firm's mini car division sustained huge losses).
BMW director Dr Michael Ganal, the sales and marketing boss for Mini, has hinted at both a pick-up and "other options" while another BMW source said: "Although America is the magnet for a 4x4 crossover, Fiat has proved with the 4x4 Panda that it can work on this side of the Atlantic.
"If we could tap into that seam then why not?"
Mini executives expect the one millionth BMW-built Mini to come off the Oxford line early next year and a new cabriolet version of the car is planned within two years. A BMW source added: "By 2009 the Oxford plant will reach its 240,000 car annual capacity."