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Car confidential: BMW execs admit: ‘We got it wrong’

BMW

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Review

German car company suits are about as likely to admit to making mistakes as they are to confess to wearing crotchless lederhosen. Ask Bernd Pischets-rieder, who continues to bang on that BMW could have turned the listing Rover longship around, had he been given time…

But here is a BMW official admitting: “We predicted 29,000 Mini sales in Britain in its peak year. We have hit 40,500.” BMW got almost everything right with the new Mini – except predicting its baby would become a sales phenomenon. Munich is determined the Mk II will reach its true potential, by expanding the Mini family with up to three new bodystyles, and making sure production better meets demand.

The new three-door hatchback should arrive in 2007. Don’t expect that much to change – today’s (or is it yesterday’s?) winning design will evolve once more, and kart-like handling will remain a gold standard.

The long-rumoured Mini Speedster – a two-seat sports car pitched at the Smart Roadster – is back on for 2008. This could be sold alongside a new, four-seat Convertible, while a long wheelbase Traveller is also odds-on. This could be a conventional five-door ‘estate’, although sources admit assessing electric sliding doors like those of Peugeot’s 1007. BMW is toying with a high-roof, MPV version, too.

The other significant development is an all-new four-cylinder engine family to replace the Pentagon unit, built in an unholy alliance with DaimlerChrysler. Expect a series of displacements, rather than the one-size fits all approach of today’s 1.6-litre in various raucous states of tune. More power and greater refinement are likely from the BMW-designed unit, to be built by PSA and at BMW’s Hams Hall engine plant.

And where will the Mk II be assembled? While other manufacturers periodically threaten to pack their bags, Plant Oxford doesn’t need to form a self-preservation society just yet: Munich whispers promise the Mini will remain made in Britain.

Oxford began with an initial capacity of 100,000; clever shift management has boosted this to 170,000, although hatchbacks must currently make way for Convertibles. Deutsche Bank optimistically predicts further expansion to 210,000 units in 2005. When the expanded Mk II family arrives, Mini’s potential could touch 250,000 sales in a full year.

All of which spells trouble for the makers of humdrum superminis. BMW is clearly determined not to make the same mistakes twice.

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