BMW Developing a Scaled-Down City Car

By Editors on September 19, 2008 1:17 PM

Moving beyond its existing plans to bring a fleet of electric MINIs to California later this year, BMW's CEO Norbert Reithofer has admitted that the German automaker is currently working on a new range of even smaller microcars for use in increasingly crowded and restricted megacity driving environments. He also confirmed that they will be designed to comply with all U.S. safety regulations. According to a story in Britain's Autocar Magazine, Reithhofer says this new commuter car will offer both gasoline and electric power, and be capable of meeting the 2012 California mandate that any fuel cell or electric vehicle sold there have a range of 200 miles or more. BMW is known to be working with Fiat on creating a common microcar architecture. While the German automaker provided few other details, there's at least a chance its Lilliputian newcomer will launch as a seperate new brand, possibly resurrecting the Isetta name made famous by BMW’s original micro-commuter of the 1950s-60s. Regardless of its badging, insiders say the new vehicle will be positioned as a premium-level product.

Earlier this year, BMW took a pro-active move to deal with the ever-more- challenging mileage and emissions scenarios by establishing a new "Project i" team. This forward-thinking strategy group is tasked with researching and developing next-gen transportation solutions for urban markets around the world, including this nascent city car. Per Reithofer, Project i has been given the power to operate both within and outside of the normal corporate constraints to come up with a series of specific recommendations on the kinds of cars and powertrains BMW should develop to best meet both legal and consumer demands during the decade ahead.