After confirming late last year that it is developing a production version of the Vision Urbanaut electric MPV concept, MINI is reportedly working on ways to make the project happen.
The BMW Group-owned brand has a lot on its plate when it comes to electrification, having already confirmed three EVs it will launch in the 2023–2024 interval.
Those are the next-generation Countryman subcompact SUV arriving in 2023 (also available with combustion engines), the Cooper SE successor expected in early 2024, and a small crossover previewed by the Concept Aceman that's coming in mid-2024.
With all these upcoming EVs and its existing ICE models, MINI doesn't quite have production capacity to spare. As a result, the brand is said to be looking for a production site for the Urbanaut-inspired production model, according to a report from Germany's Automobilwoche picked up by Electrive.
Another thing that stands in the way of the Vision Urbanaut becoming a reality is the fact that BMW Group doesn't really have the right platform for an electric minivan; it could adapt an existing one, but not without enormous additional costs and compromises.
Gallery: Mini Vision Urbanaut (2021)
This is where US EV startup Canoo comes into the equation, as the Arkansas-based company has both the skateboard electric platform designed for vans and minivans needed by MINI and available production capacity.
Without naming sources, Automobilwoche notes that there have already been contacts between Canoo and BMW Group in the past, when former BMW i manager Ulrich Kranz was the CEO of the EV startup. However, after Kranz's departure to Apple and the change of brand management at MINI this spring, "the project has stalled."
The report adds that if the numbers are right, the operating systems are compatible and the quality does not cause any problems, the first American-made MINI could have a chance to be green-lighted by BMW. Plus, being made in the US means that MINI could also offer a cargo variant of the Urbanaut that would avoid the Chicken Tax.
Canoo's Lifestyle Vehicle would make a proper platform and technology donor for MINI's electric minivan, even though it is some 200 millimeters (7.9 inches) longer than the Vision Urbanaut. This might actually be for the better, allowing MINI to avoid a size overlap between the MPV and the upcoming Countryman.
Needless to say, if this rumor gets confirmed, such a deal will be a win-win for both parties. With a contract manufacturing deal from MINI in the pocket, in addition to the recent order from Walmart, Canoo would have much better chances for survival.
We've contacted MINI and Canoo to find out if there's any truth to this and we'll update this story when and if we hear back.