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Mini family to grow

The Mini Beachcomber concept car on display during the the second press preview day at the 2010 Detroit Motor Show.

The born-again British bombshell has already grown from a city- friendly hatchback to a convertible and a Mini Clubman wagon _ with the all-wheel drive Countryman finally going public this week _ but the man driving Mini says there are more models to come.

"It's three at the moment and it will be six in the next two years, and it doesn't stop there," says Ian Robertson, the sales and marketing chief for BMW Group, which includes Mini.  "We've got lots of ideas, some of which won't come to production, but I think there is a lot more potential within a small-size car."

One of those ideas is the Beachcomber concept displayed at the Detroit Motor Show, where Robertson talks about the success of a car that has become a brand."In this case size really does matter," he says.  "Four metres is about the bandwidth. But there are some interesting concepts that could be there if you look at the Beachcomber.

"If you look back in Mini history, there were even more concepts of mini around. There were tuners, but there were other concepts done by the company.  Now, we're not going to make a Mini-van, but I think there are enough ideas to keep the brand moving forward and continue growing, which is what we want."

Robertson will not talk about the potential for a Mini coupe, one idea floated in the past six months, but he is happy to chat about the Beachcomber.  "This is the first time it's been seen. The reception has been very positive . . . but, like all things, we need to create a business case for it," he says.

"At the end of the day there are a number of factors on that car that are not easy to resolve. There is side crash, for example. The fact is that Mini Mokes of the past were not burdened by any of this, so if you look at actual crash situations you have to do some very smart stuff to make that a viable proposition. It's not a matter of whipping the doors out and saying that's ok."

Robertson is convinced Mini has a big future because of its widespread appeal.  "It's huge. Seventy-year-olds buy Minis, with big smiles on their faces.

"From the young kids through to the aging pensioners, it is a car for all ages and all social sets as well. So for people who have a lot of money, and people who are scrambling to get money, it's appropriate for all of them.

"It's a really unique proposition. And when I talk to some potential competitors of Mini they all say 'Yes, but Mini is really different and really special'. Because it is different and characterful.

"We've taken a car that was small and cute and had a nice history, and turned it into a brand. And I think that's a major achievement. And in a relatively short period of time.

"Here we are in Detroit, and if you'd asked me three or four years ago if America would be the largest market for Mini I'd have said 'Unlikely, with a small car and a small engine' . . . but for the second year running it's the biggest market in the world.  "And it came from a standing start in America as well. There was no real history of Mini here in America."

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