The next MINI adventure could take BMW's highly successful baby off-road, as engineers and stylists work on a chunky 4x4 crossover based on the Traveller five-door wagon.
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.
With America - where 40,000 MINIs were sold last year - a prime target market for a small SUV/crossover, BMW could be tempted to build the soft-roader at its factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina, particularly if a pick-up variant was added to the line-up.
One BMW Group insider told us: "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."
BMW director Dr Michael Ganal, who is 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 an SUV crossover, Fiat has proved with the 4x4 Panda that it can work on this side of the Atlantic. If we could tap into that, then why not? By 2009, the Oxford plant will reach its 240,000 annual capacity." The 4x4 would likely hit showrooms in 2010.
Executives at MINI expect the one millionth BMW-built MINI to come off the line at Oxford early in 2007, while a new cabriolet version of the car is planned within two years.