Could A BMW & Toyota Partnership Result in the Rocketman Being Produced?

Big news out of Munich today as BMW announces a deeper strategic partnership with Toyota. Specifically, this strategic partnership will focus on four major areas:

  1. Fuel Cell Systems
  2. A “future sports vehicle” platform
  3. Powertrain electrification
  4. Lightweight materials and manufacturing

While these areas of focus could have a wide range of applications throughout BMW Group, they could also point to one particular exciting possibility for MINI fans: a production version of the MINI Rocketman concept. We’ve been hearing rumblings from sources for awhile that, in order for MINI to profitably build the Rocketman they’ll need a partner. It’s possible that this Toyota/BMW partnership could include BMW collaborating heavily with Toyota on the next generation platform for the Toyota iQ. This platform could then underpin a production version of what we now know as the MINI Rocketman — a car that would deliver a MINI in nearly its classic footprint.

Now before anybody gets too excited, or too upset, keep in mind that we’re not talking about the Aston Martin approach here. A production Rocketman would not be a re-badged Toyota iQ. Instead, the two cars would share chassis and drivetrain components (and possibly even alternative energy drive systems), but be otherwise very different cars. Bottom line, Toyota’s involvement helps make the Rocketman possible in the first place, as the upcoming FXX platform would not be able to shrink to fit the Rocketman’s diminutive dimensions. Here’s the full release:

[Official Release] Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC), met today with Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, at BMW Group headquarters in Munich to announce the planned expansion of their existing cooperation initiated in December last year. The two companies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at long-term strategic collaboration in four fields: joint development of a fuel cell system, joint development of architecture and components for a future sports vehicle, collaboration on powertrain electrification and joint research and development on lightweight technologies.

Also today, Norbert Reithofer and Akio Toyoda of TMC both signed a Joint Statement to reconfirm their companies’ shared intention to strengthen the long-term, strategic collaboration between them.

Reithofer said: “We aim to further strengthen our competitive position in sustainable future technologies. We signed an MoU to this effect today. Toyota and the BMW Group share the same strategic vision of sustainable individual future mobility. Together we have a great opportunity to continue leading our industry through this transformation.”

Toyoda added: “BMW and Toyota both want to make ever-better cars. We respect each other. And I think this is shown by our taking the next step only six months since the signing of our initial agreement. Toyota is strong in environment-friendly hybrids and fuel cells. On the other hand, I believe BMW’s strength is in developing sports cars. I am excited to think of the cars that will result from this relationship.”

In March 2012, the BMW Group and TMC signed a binding agreement on collaborative research in the field of next-generation lithium-ion battery cells. In addition, the BMW Group and Toyota Motor Europe entered into a contract under which the BMW Group will supply highly-efficient 1.6 litre and 2.0 litre diesel engines to Toyota Motor Europe, starting in 2014.

Today’s MoU represents the companies’ agreement in December last year to identify and discuss other possible collaborative projects.

  • If it does happen I hope it won’t be a euro only model. If I have it right the Rocketman will be about 5″ shorter than the current Fiat 500, which might give pause to a lot of American buyers.

    • oldsbear

      On the other hand, with the Toyota reputation for quality and reliability, and the MINI reputation for fun and excitement, it could give buyers PAWS — to the dealership 🙂 Sorry: sometimes I just can’t stop myself.

  • b-

    Oh no! Toyota is the definition of appliance automobiles!

    I can see it now! The MINI Rocketman TRD! Honestly, who names the racing development division TRD?

    • inner

      Toyota is the definition of “quality & reliability” too!!!

  • Chris Underwood

    I’d prefer my MINI share nothing with Toyota… But then I’m not in the market for a hybrid or electric vehicle – my current relationship with the Prius is simply wanting its owners to stay the heck out of my way on the road, and that’s already more relationship than I care to have.

    • Herr26.

      The possibilities are there as Toyota did ship in a prototype platform of the next gen IQ to Munich in order for BMW to do a test with the Rocketman proposal. One key benefit is that Toyota have engineered the next gen platform to offer various drive concepts something which has excited BMW’s engineers and marketing department with their intended goals for a production Rocketman. Should the car get the green-light then BMW would do the in-house chassis engineering so at least it offers the MINI fun factor expected with any MINI.

      The good thing about the entire Rocketman project is that BMW understands the need for the car to have character whether in exterior or interior design , personalisation and of course how the car drives. Get that right and success should surely follow.

      MINI does have some exciting ideas in relation to progressive concepts. It is only now that it looks possible that they will now see the light of day thanks to this partnership

      • Tom

        The MINI Rocketman concept has a wheelbase of 3050 mm and a length of 3419 mm.

        The Toyota iQ has a wheelbase of 2000 mm and a length of 2990 mm.

        I don’t think the new iQ will be much longer.

        The Toyota Aygo has a wheelbase of 2340 mm and a length of 3430 mm.

        The Aygo is much closer to the Rocketman concept, but the new one could be longer.

        I really don’t understand how it could be.

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          Platforms are scalable- they do not need to be identical. The Clubman and Hardtop share the same chassis architecture/platform but are not identical. The VW Golf and A3. BMW 1&3, 5,6,7 and so on. It is rare for cars not to share platforms these days to reduce investment.

          Aren’t the Aygo and IQ already built on the same platform? They are just scaled different. That said the next generation IQ platform may be the basis of the Rocketman and the Rocketman may be adapted to fit the platform or the platform may require tweaking to accept it (it is still not final).

        • @BimmerFile_Michael:disqus The iQ is its own platform. The Aygo is actually a joint venture with its twin brother and sister the Peugeot 107 and Citroën C1. I was thinking something similar though and apparently the engineering costs for the iQ were very high (it seems to take more engineering to make a great small car than a larger one) and to justify the investment the plan is to build additional models based on the iQ platform:

  • calimacproman

    approach with caution BMW/MINI. The new tiny iQ has been ill received so if it’s anything like that, not thanks!!!

  • This is exciting to me. To date, no A-segment “city cars” have caught on in the US, and I think Toyota knows that the current iQ isn’t going to be the one that finally does.

    But the Rocketman could be. Yes, a Toyota-sourced platform might not be the ideal way to go about doing it, but perhaps that would bring the price of the final product down enough for it to catch on as more than just a novelty. Plus, with BMW supposedly supplying engines and chassis tweaking, I’m not terribly worried about a future MINI Prius C….

  • gokartride

    If it can work for Aston Martin, perhaps it can work for MINI in a slightly different configuration.

  • To ease your worries, read about Aiko Toyoda– the man in charge of the Toyota aspect.

    • Perfect article to remind people of! Thanks for sharing @facebook-100000442961140:disqus [It was on my reading list from when I saw it pop up in my RSS feed at work today.] Although I generally find most Toyotas to be as exciting as refrigerators, they have made a handful amazing sports cars over the years and there is exciting potential with an experienced and caring CEO at the helm.

      Akio Toyoda wanting to create “an environmentally friendly sports car” sounds to align closely with BMW’s marketing and engineering efforts under the title “Efficiency Dynamics” and the forthcoming i8 instantly springs to mind.

  • I always regretted that the new MINI never had the same engineering marvels of space efficiency that Alec Issigonis created in the original/classic Mini and the sharing of a Toyota platform such as the iQ could lead to be an homage of his vision.

    If anybody should be able to do a small city car right, it would be MINI. The Smart and iQ haven’t been nearly as popular as expected partially because of lower than expected gas mileage (compared to slightly larger and heavier cars with better mileage), their price is high, their utility is low as is their performance/fun. However I think one of the biggest factors is that people think they lack any character and that they look odd. Of course the Rocketman is just a concept, but visually there are a number of people that like it and if MINI was able to make the Rocketman, I think it would be one of the first city cars people actual crave and want to own; perhaps even Americans to have as their only car, not a second car. People have accepted MINIs slightly higher prices and slightly lower gas mileage and utility (every manufacturer has 40mpg sedans that are larger and more practical than any MINI) because of the looks, the brand and the performance. Smart and iQ never had these qualities, but a MINI Rocketman with a bit of imperceptible platform sharing is a smart move in my book.

  • scamper

    This is the news I’ve been waiting for! Finally some talk of modern power plants rather than outdated petrol burners, and of truly compact Minis rather than these recent, bloated Amurrican-appeasing monstrosities. I was eyeing a (hopefully refreshed) Coupé for next year, but now I just may wait to see what fruits this partnership brings.

  • wetwolf

    sigh….when I heard sports vehicle, I was hoping for sports car. Specifically, a modern day Triumph.

  • piperbud

    “Hybrid” automobile design engaging the talents of collaborating manufacturers is nothing new and has historically yielded progressive results. Like BMW, Toyota has its own impressive toolbox of exceptional performance and reliability-related technology. And although such alliances may bruise some chauvinist egos, on balance there is no denying that the cost-benefit yield could be significant. It’s a big pill to swallow for some of us, but a sensible palliative to reduce the cost of otherwise independent R&D that could render the introduction of new and exciting models like the Rocketman cost prohibitive eternal concept vehicles much to our chagrin and disappointment. There is however one significant looming fear: How much BMW/MINI design integrity may be compromised. It’s fretful enough to observe the current trend MINI is fueling with its model range expansion … and, most noteworthy, the expansion of vehicle scale vis-a-vis the Sir Alec template. I also think there is a real danger of MINI design becoming even less purposeful and more “cartoonesque” since Japanese designers have a knack for creating some amusingly whimsical mini and micro-cars well-suited for the Pixar/Dreamworks epic, but hopefully not suitable to the sensibilities of MINI enthusiasts.

  • Tata Steva

    I just crave for mini MINI, that’s all… One day…

  • Michail

    Mini maybe can use the opel adam platform for the rocketman.