BMW is in the running to buy the De Tomaso brand, according to the Italian government’s Industry Ministry. An Italian Union official says the talks to buy the defunct brand also include Italian buyers.

It is not clear why BMW might want De Tomaso, but Audi’s ownership of Lamborghini and the brand recognition for the Italian marque in the US might have driven Munich’s interest.

Earlier this year there was an attempt to revive the brand and build a 5m-long, V6-engined luxury SUV, which was based around a part-aluminium structure. It was scheduled to be built in an ex-Pininfarina factory, but the plans collapsed.

De Tomaso was founded in Modena in 1959 by Alejandro de Tomaso and built its first car – the tiny Ford-powered Vallelunga – before the Mangusta and Pantera, both of which were powered by robust Ford V8 engines.

The Pantera was made in diminishing numbers for over 20 years. The company also built two luxury saloons, the Deauville and the Longchamp. Between 1976 and 1993 De Tomaso owned Maserati, taking over from Citroën.

Attempts to reinvent the brand in the 1990s were a failure. The Guara mid-engined roadster and coupé were produced in small numbers and the Bigua coupé (styled by Marcello Gandini) morphed into the Qvale Mangusta, before being sold off to MG Rover in 2001 to be restyled as the MG XPower SV.