The tiny Rocketman concept that MINI presented during the 2011 edition of the Geneva Auto Show hasn’t spawned a production model yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s been deep-sixed. Company executives have recently revealed that they’re still looking at ways the design study can make the jump from the show floor to the showroom floor.
The need for a smaller entry-level model like the Rocketman concept (pictured) has grown as MINI’s core model, the Hardtop, has gotten markedly bigger over the past three generations. While building a car like the Rocketman with a gasoline- or a diesel-burning engine presents several major packaging challenges, new advances in battery technology open up the opportunity for the city car to go electric-only.
Ralph Mahler, MINI’s product chief, pointed out that an electric motor is much more compact than a conventional internal combustion engine, which allows designers to reduce a car’s footprint while maximizing interior space. If the Rocketman launches as an EV, it will likely utilize components borrowed from BMW, MINI’s parent company. It’s unclear at this point whether the production model will be bigger than the concept, which stretched just 126 inches from bumper to bumper.
MINI is also looking into turning the stunning Superleggera Vision concept into a production model. Building a small, city-friendly electric car is a no-brainer for the British brand, but launching a roadster aimed at Mazda’s vaunted MX-5 Miata requires a lot more thought.
“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,” explained Mahler in an interview with British magazine Autocar.
Mahler revealed that MINI will reveal its next concept this summer, but he declined to comment on when the company will decide to either build the Rocketman and the Superleggera, or send them to the pantheon of automotive history once and for all.