Hot on the tail of our story about the 3rd generation MINI codename, the F56, Autocar is reporting this morning that ailing automaker Saab has made “an audacious bid to buy the rights to the outgoing BMW MINI platform.” The Swedish automaker wants to get into the premium small car game, but without all that pesky engineering.

Having already licensed the current generation of 1.6L engines, it looks like Saab just needed a car to put them in. The target Saab model would be the 9-1, and be intended to compete against the F56 generation MINI and the Audi A1. It’s a bold move, but Saab will have to survive as a company long enough to take delivery of the new platform in 2012. With recent plant stoppages and suppliers complaining about non-payment for parts, Saab is clearly in trouble. Would a MINI clone be too little too late? Perhaps. I also wonder just how competitive a six year-old chassis and engine platform could really be against contemporary offerings from Audi, and especially the evolved MINI รขโ‚ฌโ€ a car likely to be lighter, more efficient and more powerful than the current generation. It seems Saab might only be able to compete on price, but if that’s the strategy, can they actually build a “premium” car that’s significantly price competitive? Time will tell.