MUNICH, Germany -- BMW said on Thursday it would start building a convertible version of its hot-selling Mini, the diminutive car that has kept its sales on the rise even as demand for its own luxury models has waned.
Addressing shareholders at the company's annual meeting, CEO Helmut Panke said the new four-seat model would probably be on the market by the middle of next year.
"I can confirm we're expanding the Mini product program to include a four-seater cabriolet as we want to capture new customers in the open-top, small-car market," Panke said.
The success of the iconic Mini, a brand BMW salvaged from its disastrous takeover of Britain's Rover in 1994, has taken BMW executives by surprise, as has demand for its more expensive high-powered Cooper and Cooper S versions.
The company ran its factory in Oxford, England at full capacity last year, building around 160,000 of the cars, modern versions of the British 1960s cult classic. It plans to increase production by around 10 percent in the next few years.
Investors had initially worried that BMW would struggle to make money on a car pitched squarely at the lower-margin small end of the market, but the company says it makes money on every Mini it sells.
Panke also repeated that BMW, which is in the midst of the biggest new product program in its history, was aiming for flat profits this year but a rise in sales, boosted by the forthcoming update of its key 5-series saloon.