It’s more reminiscent of a small British sports car of the 1960s crossed with a first-generation Daihatsu Copen than it is of a classic MINI, but the latest car to wear the MINI badge — a two-seat all-electric drop top concept car called the MINI Superleggera Vision — is going to have to wait another six months before being given a possible green light for production.
That’s according to BMW board member Peter Schwarzenbauer, who told Reuters yesterday that BMW needs to take its time before deciding if it should build the all-electric two-seater or not.
“To really investigate seriously … you look into several different options, you come to the question: do we produce it ourselves, do we give it to somebody else?” he said.
The vehicle, produced as a concept car in order to see how fans would react to a radically-different MINI identity, was unveiled earlier this year in May. It is one of a number of different MINI concepts being considered for production, which could see the MINI brand radically expand to include at least ten distinct models.
As Schwarzenbauer explained however, parent company BMW isn’t sure if the correct direction for the MINI brand to take is a wider range of vehicles, or a return to the four or five iconic models known and loved by car fans worldwide.
Responsible for the MINI and Rolls Royce brands, Schwarzenbauer said expanding the brand is a distinct possibility, but said due to emotional reasons, “concentrating on five [model] superheroes” would be more appealing to him personally.
Originally conceived by Sir Alec Issigonis as the Morris Mini-Minor, the original vehicle to wear the MINI badge was far smaller than today’s MINI. With seating for up to five people plus a small amount of luggage, the tiny two-door family car featured a transverse-mounted, front-wheel drive engine and quickly became an instant hit with Europeans wanting a fuel-efficient car.
Made from 1959 until 2000, just six years after BMW acquired the struggling Rover group which by then owned the Mini brand, the original Mini and its high-performance Cooper variant were nothing short of a British institution, something BMW used to its advantage when it launched the all-new MINI brand in 2001.
Since then, the BMW-made MINI hardtop and its variants — including the Clubman, Countryman, Coupe, Roadster and Convertible models — have retained at least a passing, sometimes tentative resemblance to the original classic MINI design. The two-seat Superleggera Vision is the first MINI to truly break that mould.
The decision to bring that particular MINI to production won’t be taken lightly, said Schwarzenbauer. In addition to examining the implications of producing a completely different vehicle at its MINI plant, BMW needs to decide if it’s better producing the Superleggera in-house, or license the design to someone else.
“To evaluate all of this, I would say six months at least,” he said.
MINI, which has already confirmed a plug-in hybrid will be joining its lineup some point in the near future, has yet to produce a commercially-available electric model. However, back in 2007, BMW produced limited numbers of two-seat MINI E prototypes. Used to study electric car ownership and lay the groundwork for BMW’s later ActiveE test program and subsequent BMW i3 electric car, the MINI E lacked rear seats due to the large battery pack shoehorned into its small frame, but proved extremely popular among those lucky enough to lease it as part of BMW’s Electronaut test fleet. If you live in Delaware, you may still see one being used as part of a Vehicle-to-Grid test project, but for the most part, the MINI E is no more.
Do you like the MINI Superleggera? Do you think MINI should bring it to production? And how much would you pay for it? Or do you think doing so would further dilute the meaning of a classic motoring brand?
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