Report Says BMW City Car Approved – Could Be Called Isetta

By Chris Haak

02.04.2008

As Autosavant had reported previously here and here, BMW has been actively considering adding a fourth brand to its portfolio (Mini, BMW, and Rolls Royce are the other three).

Now, AutoExpress has reported that the fourth brand will be a lineup of small city cars to compete directly with Daimler AG’s Smart brand, and that it has been given the green light. The reason BMW chose a sub-Mini line as its addition is to reduce the company’s overall CO2 footprint and improve its standing with environmentalists. The vehicles would likely be powered by small gasoline and diesel engines, backed by turbochargers. The rendering used here is from AutoExpress.

To me, the most intriguing aspect of this news is the rumor that the leading contender for the brand name is Isetta. For those who don’t know, Isetta was the brand of tiny BMW-sold bubble cars in the 1950s. They had a single door in the front of the vehicle and a single bench seat. It was powered by a one cylinder engine; my father’s friend owns a red and white 1957 Isetta, and it sounds almost exactly like a small lawn tractor when the engine is running. The rumor is that if BMW goes with the Isetta name, it will also feature neo-retro styling reminiscent of the original Isetta. After all, such a styling concept has worked very well for BMW’s Mini brand. It’s doubtful that there would be a way to incorporate the signature single front door in this era of rigorous crash tests and product liability lawsuits.

If I were to drive a tiny car (which is unlikely), I’d want one that has the historical lineage and most personality in the class. Also, being a BMW, it would likely be fun to drive – or as fun to drive as anything with 50 horsepower could be. Here’s hoping that BMW does, in fact, revive the Isetta brand.

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Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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5 Comments

  1. Isetta was the name of the Italian company that BMW licensed the design from, if I remember correctly from what I read about the Isetta a few years ago. Isn’t that company still around in Italy, making large consumer and business appliances?

  2. No, Isetta was the name of the car and Iso was the name of the manufacturing company.

    Iso was the same firm the Iso Rivolta sports car came from later. Iso got out of the appliance business after it was successful with cars. The large front-swinging door on the Isetta is the same door Iso used on their refrigerators.

    There were four Isettas, made in four different countries. BMW Isetta (Germany), Iso Isetta (Italy) VELAM Isetta (France) and Romi Isetta (Brazil).

    In Germany Isettas were usually called “das rollende Ei”, which means “the rolling egg”.

  3. It’s a nice idea. If Isetta’s Italian origins are too much of a drawback, BMW might remember that in the 1960s it took over the German Glas company, an interesting concern that made a V8 sports car but is best known for its own microcar, the Goggomobil…though that’s hardly a name that rolls of the tongue!

  4. That’s a lot of Isetta info, spaglione. Had no idea anyone else made one except BMW. I guess the parent company made a lot of money off that design.

  5. It would be great if BMW could offer a small, economical RWD car. Not stripped, but basic with a good (but not great) level of performance.

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