THE man in charge of Mini’s new car launches up to 2021 has hinted we’ll see hot WRC inspired cars as early as 2012.
And the Mini product manager said the firm would be ‘foolish’ not to build the Rocketman concept – currently dubbed the mini Mini by fans.
Although Lee Connolly, Mini UK product and planning manager, couldn’t reveal all of the car manufacturer’s plans, he did enough to convince us there are some exciting models on the way.
At the launch of the new Mini Coupe in Austria, he told us: ‘Hopefully the Rocketman is being evaluated and rubberstamped as we speak. It is a complete concept at the moment, but I love it.
‘There is definitely still space for a model below the hatch. We can see that already with Fiat 500 and they are priced below £10,000. There’s certainly room for us with a city car below the hatch. That would mean smaller engines, smaller body; a city car, but with all the attributes of Mini.’
Connolly revealed he had researched the Rocketman and this had revealed it could become a volume seller for the brand. Although he doesn’t think it will overtake the popular hatch, it would certainly make sense.
However, the car manufacturer doesn’t currently have a platform to build the mini Mini on – that would require a big investment. But with a recent £500m chunk of cash set aside to update Oxford, it’s likely the maker is gearing up to produce the city car.
‘We don’t have a platform to build that car on, and to build it bespoke would cost a lot of money – it would be a whole new project for us,’ explained Connolly. ‘Initially the concept was built to gauge customer and media opinion, but the barometer of positivity towards it has been very high. It has been received very well, but there’s a lot of work to be done.
‘Research says in the next 10-15 years the small car sector will become a trend and, in some cases, a necessity. The predictions point towards the small car sector exploding so we’d be foolish not to look at the Rocketman seriously.’
Closer to hitting dealer showrooms are some WRC-inspired performance models, but would they be hotter than the current John Cooper Works cars?
‘Yes, potentially,’ said Connolly. ‘I hope there are rally-inspired versions. You only have to look at what Subaru and Prodrive did with their road cars to see what is possible.
‘The appetite is there – so it’s a case of fingers crossed. We’ve got some activity next year that will fit this area.’
When asked whether they WRC editions would be restricted to the Countryman – the car on which the rally machine is based – Connolly wouldn’t be drawn, telling us we’d have to “wait and see”.
With 26 years experience at BMW and four of those at Mini, he knows what he can, and cruicially, cannot tell the press. The fact he said as muchas he did reveals a lot in itself… we’ve certainly got our fingers crossed both get the nod!