2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman
Back in 2001 it was a matter of pride for BMW that it was building the all-new MINI in the U.K., home of the original city car that was launched in August 1959. Using the former British Leyland plant at Cowley, Oxford, gave the car credibility even though it was a German project. But that was before the cute car became a global sales phenomenon, spawning a cabriolet and now the Clubman estate. The next stage, as widely predicted, is a MINI Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV), and there’s simply not room at Cowley to build it. The answer has come in the form of Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria.
“The vehicle concept has been entrusted to Magna Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik for series development and for later production,” said a BMW statement. “The co-operation with Magna Steyr is an efficient way for BMW Group to ensure the planned profitable growth through new model launches set out in the company's strategic alignment.”
There’s no official details on the car yet, nor when it will appear in showrooms. The smart money could be on a debut in August 2009, exactly 50 years after the launch of the original version and surely an anniversary BMW will want to celebrate somehow.
No concept version has been seen yet, but insiders say many of the features that appeared on the various Traveller prototypes that previewed the Clubman do provide clues. These include fold-down exterior storage panels and integrated roof bars.
BMW says the move means Cowley can use its annual production capacity of 260,000 units to meet demand for the three core models. But in reality outsourcing is the only way of extending the family. Magna Steyr has worked with BMW before, producing the X3 compact SUV.
-- Richard Yarrow