(Changes “coupe” to “roadster” in second paragraph)
By Costas Pitas
OXFORD, England, Sept 9 (Reuters) - An electric version of the Mini that will move the classic British car further away from its original design will have to wait at least six months for a possible green light, a BMW board member said on Tuesday.
The new car, known as the Superleggera, was on show last week in Britain. It is a two-door roadster, longer and sleeker than the traditional compact Mini.
Peter Schwarzenbauer, who sits on the BMW board and is responsible for the Mini and Rolls-Royce brands, said a decision on whether to build the model, which would be Mini’s eighth variant, was some months away.
“To really investigate seriously ... you look into several different options, you come to the question: do we produce it ourselves, do we give it to somebody else.”
“To evaluate all of this, I would say six months at least,” he told Reuters at the company’s Cowley Oxford plant.
The Mini has undergone several reincarnations and changed ownership since it first came on the scene in 1959. The brand was relaunched in 2001 under BMW’s ownership at the Cowley plant, which has just produced its 3 millionth Mini.
BMW produced 303,177 Minis in 2013 at sites in Oxford, southern England, the Netherlands and Graz in Austria.
The German carmaker is looking at whether to expand or shrink its current line-up of seven Mini models as part of a potential brand shake-up.
The two main possibilities, according to Schwarzenbauer, include increasing the number of variants to 10 or reducing to five, which he said he slightly leaned towards, although he said that no decision had yet been taken.
He said even if the total number of models were reduced to focus on strong distinctive brands or “superheroes”, there could still be new models.
“I think, slightly on the emotional side, that concentrating on five superheroes has a great appeal to me,” he said, declining to specify which of the current models could be dropped.
In 2013, Mini produced 58 percent of its current range of seven models - which include the Mini Hatch convertible, Roadster, Coupé and Paceman SUV- at its Oxford plant but Schwarzenbauer said the percentage would rise “dramatically” by 2015.
Although Oxford would continue to build the majority of Minis he said that small-scale assembly of Mini cars could be expanded in emerging markets.
“We are assembling a little bit in India,” he said.
“Brazil, in Cote d‘Ivoire where we have a BMW factory... that could be an option ... for one model.”
But he ruled out the possibility of Minis being built in the United States - the brand’s biggest market - or China, the automaker’s fourth largest.
Reporting By Costas Pitas. Editing by Jane Merriman