Mini Concept Is a Stretch

It appears every production vehicle from the Lincoln Town Car and Navigator to the Hummer is fair game for the limousine conversion business. So why not a Mini? A Mini concept car displayed at September's Frankfurt, Germany auto show is evidence that BMW designers may have been asking that very question. Mini is doing well, selling 700,000 units since its re-launch under Bavarian tutelage three years

It appears every production vehicle — from the Lincoln Town Car and Navigator to the Hummer — is fair game for the limousine conversion business.

So why not a Mini?

A Mini concept car displayed at September's Frankfurt, Germany auto show is evidence that BMW designers may have been asking that very question. Mini is doing well, selling 700,000 units since its re-launch under Bavarian tutelage three years ago.

The challenge is to keep the product fresh and vibrant, which is difficult to do when the brand itself is tied so directly to a particular body style.

The brand already has the Mini One, Cooper, Cooper S and convertible versions, as well as the John Cooper Works package, which offers factory installation of aftermarket ornamentation.

With this many variants of essentially the same vehicle, it appears BMW designers had little choice but to contemplate new, upsized dimensions for the concept, while retaining the brand's identity.

BMW isn't sharing the concept's spec sheet, but it is taller, wider, heavier and several inches longer than production versions of the current Mini.

The long wheelbase also gives backseat passengers considerably more legroom than current models and affords an ample rear-cargo hold.

The blunt, chunky front end was designed to meet pedestrian impact regulations in Europe, and the squareish backend looks much like it came from a Detroit SUV design studio.

Instead of the traditional liftgate on current Minis, the concept version has split rear doors that swing open, such as those on the ultra-big Ford Excursion SUV.

In 2005, Mini is striving for 200,000 unit sales.

Through the first eight months, Mini has sold 139,000 units — 16,000 vehicles more than like-2004.

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