Stefan Krause, BMW's boss of sales and marketing, has finally gone on record to confirm the rumours. The German carmaker thinks it might need a new 'green' brand.
The mighty Munich operation must find a way to "satisfy growing pressure for vehicles with better economy" Krause has been quoted as saying. Interestingly, BMW's researchers have concluded that the BMW brand cannot be stretched much further from its 'ultimate driving machine' position. So while it has made impressive gains with its Efficient Dynamics programme, fundamental changes to the brand are out of the question.
Instead, BMW might need a range of smaller, lighter front-drive models to build up into a big-selling global business. Such a move would also help meet future binding fuel-economy targets in Europe and the US (the EU looks like it will join the US in setting economy targets and then fining carmakers for selling vehicles that don't achieve them).
The answer to BMW's problem is easy. Expand Mini. Build a new, bigger platform that could underpin a 4m-long five-door hatchback, a small crossover, high-roofed estate, compact coupés… The possibilities are endless.
But it won't happen. According to a recent interview with Krause, BMW Doesn't want to further extend Mini's line-up beyond the upcoming crossover model for fear of diluting the Mini's 'quirky appeal'. When I read that alarm bells went off.