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The mini-Mini may arrive mid-2013

Though Mini won't commit its as-yet unseen concept to metal, it has a history of taunting the public.

Mini is going back to basics - and back to the past - as it readies yet another model for the market.

But the mini-Mini - rumoured for some months - is claimed to be more a styling exercise than a commitment for production, says Mini director Cypselus von Frankenberg. It will be unveiled at Geneva next month and is the ninth derivative to be shown to the public. Seven of those exercises are either in production or nearing launch.

Though Mini won't commit its as-yet unseen concept to metal, it has a history of taunting the public.

Given that Mini takes two to two-and-a-half years from concept to production, the Geneva star car may hit the showrooms in mid-2013 and sit on the shared Mini-BMW platform.

Mini is busy on current commitments. It will release the Paceman - built on the long wheelbase Countryman platform - at the end of 2012. It will be built in Austria. Late this year, it will start selling the UK-built and Cooper hatch-based, Coupe and in early 2012, the Roadster. In late 2013 it will move into the third generation of the Cooper hatch.

This year, Mr von Frankenberg expects the sale of the 2-millionth Mini.

"It is in 80-plus markets and 1300 dealers - not bad for a new car company that started 10 years ago," he says.

Mini has moved on from its diesel engine deal with PSA Peugeot Citroen. It is replacing the 1.6-litre PSA turbo-diesel next month with the BMW 107kW 2-litre turbo-diesel, to be known as the Cooper SD. The smaller diesel alternative, the 1.6-litre Cooper D, will remain as will the PSA 1.6-litre turbo-petrol.

"There's no reason to change that (petrol) engine," says von Frankenberg.

Mini's main problem, he says, is that demand is outstripping supply. The company last year expanded its manufacturing outside of its English home base. Mr von Frankenberg says the Oxford plant produces 240,000 cars a year and has a capacity of 260,000. The expansion into Austria - initially to build the Countryman but next year also the Paceman - is hoped to appease growing demand.

"We're not looking at producing in other countries," he says. "But demand in China is growing - it's now our sixth biggest market - with 10,000 units already and the US is expanding. But we have no plans to add manufacturing in these markets."

Minis most popular model remains the Cooper hatch at 60 per cent of sales. The Cabrio and Clubman each have virtually all the remainder but sales of the Countryman are expected to eat up to 30 per cent of total sales once it comes on stream this year in the key markets of China, Japan and the US.

"Its longer wheelbase, more cabin room, high driving stance and the optional all-wheel drive will make the Countryman very popular in places like China," von Frankenberg says.

The prestige small-car hero, the Mini, isn't threatened by the imminent arrival of BMW's first front-wheel drive hatch.

Expected in 2013 to coincide with the third generation Mini, the front-wheel drive BMW will share the Mini's platform and perhaps many drivetrain components.

BMW is coy about its details but the so-called 0-Series is now known to be bigger than the Mini hatch and will have the ability to be offered in two wheelbases.

"It will sit, in size, between the Mini and the 1-Series," says one BMW insider. "It's a B-segment car. It will compete with the Audi A1, for example."

Mini boss Cypselus von Frankenberg sees no conflict.

"They will be two different cars for two very different buyers," he says. "They will also have a different retail approach. The Mini is all about lifestyle - our customers think differently. Our customers are aged less than 40 - we have the youngest customers of any carmaker - so compared with BMW we are not in the same sphere."