“The Rocketman is inspiring us as of today, especially as an EV in the future,” he said.
“It was something that was ahead of its time but is still inspiring. With a smaller car, it’s a bigger challenge. With Rocketman, and talking EV in the future, as the EV engine gets more portable, it’s give and take [as to whether it is possible to make such a small car].”
Mini would tap into the electric technology of parent BMW’s i brand, should the Rocketman project be reborn. It could also look at the i3’s innovative structure, with running gear built into the floor to free up cabin space.
Another option would be to extend BMW’s partnership with Toyota and tap into the Japanese maker’s small car expertise through its recent full acquisition of Daihatsu.
Mahler acknowledged that the segment below the one occupied by the three-door Mini hatch was an interesting one.
“We’re smallest in segment with our three-door hatch, but there is a segment below that,” he said.
As well as the Rocketman, another concept car is influencing Mini: the Superleggera Vision from 2014.
This was a collaboration between Mini’s design team and coachbuilder Touring Superleggera and previewed Mini’s future design language on a two-seat, rear-wheeldrive roadster concept.
However, the concept car has proven such a hit that Mini is investigating ways of putting it into production, although it would seem unlikely at this stage.
Mahler described it as “the second concept that’s inspiring us at the moment”.
There had been “very positive feedback on the car,” he said, but the “roadster segment is small and demand is going down, with new markets opening up. The growth is not there, so it’s always a challenge”.
Mahler added: “It fits perfectly into the brand, but we’re a small [on sales volume] car brand and have to be focused and know what we want to have. The Superleggera is playing a role but no decisions.”
BMW has also confirmed that Mini will launch a new concept car in London on 16 June as part of BMW’s centenary celebrations.
The concept’s strapline is ‘Every Mini is a Mini’ and it will showcase the next century of car personalisation, although Mahler wouldn’t be drawn on any details about the car.