Rumor: The Rocketman is Back

Much has been written on the Rocketman on these pages. Earlier this year our sources had told us that the car was undergoing feasibility studies with an eye to bring it to market on the back of a Toyota platform. Ever since MINI Design head Gert Hildebrand and Exterior Design head Marcus Syring dreamt up the idea of the Rocketman while waiting for a delayed flight at a New York airport, there’s been a powerful movement within the company to get it built. While the initial design study was seen as a major success, it died on the vine due to BMW not wanting to invest in a city car version of the forthcoming UKL platform. More specifically BMW didn’t believe the sales volume would ever make up the initial investment unless they sold the car for the same price as the F56 – which to many would be unacceptable.

But lucky for us that didn’t stop the enthusiasm inside MINI for making a city car. And now we have our first promising public quote from MINI Design Chief Anders Warming on the topic.

Auto Express asked him about the Rocketman and got this surprisingly candid answer:

Warming suggested to us that the Rocketman was still on the table. “For sure, a MINI should always be a small car, so [a new city car] would be appropriate for the brand,” he said. “At the moment, we don’t have the right tech solutions, but we are working on it. We don’t yet have a final solution, you could say.”

While the Rocketman was based on a lightweight carbon fibre construction, Warming hinted future MINIs won’t use carbon like the BMW i3 and M4 to save weight. “I don’t believe carbon fibre is the route to a superlight MINI,” he told us. “Our concepts have had carbon parts, but aluminium is more likely. We want to reduce parts, to do more with less.”

That matches up well with what we believe is currently happening at MINI. As we reported earlier this year, MINI is working through an internal proposal of a vehicle smaller than the current F56 two door hatch. The smaller model, similar in size to the Rocketman concept is being conceived as both a three and five door hatch and will likely be based on partnering with another automaker. Who that automaker is we don’t know but once again it would make sense for Toyota to be involved. BMW and Toyota have recently become technical partners in several ventures around hybrid and hydrogen technology not to mention that they are designed at least one sports car together for a release later this decade.

toyota-iq

Given that type of collaboration it wouldn’t be out of bounds for BMW to have direct input into the next generation Toyota Aygo (16″ shorter than the current F56) or even the iQ (which is a full 33″ shorter). That direct input would be directed towards making sure resulting MINI feel as gokart like as possible and accommodate either a 1.5L three cylinder MINI engine or something even smaller co-developed with Toyota.

Why is MINI so eager to produce something smaller than the F56? The brand is born out of a less is more philosophy and a few internally at MINI are concerned that the current product range doesn’t make that point clear enough. A small city car could serve as both a price leader and a halo vehicle that better exemplifies the brand ethos than the current hatch.

According to sources we expect a sneak peek at this new small MINI in concept form late this year or early next.