PARIS -- BMW, known for high-performance engines, is considering a three-cylinder powerplant for vehicles sold in the United States.
"Hybrids with a three-cylinder engine are coming rapidly," said Ian Robertson, BMW AG board member for sales and marketing, at the Paris auto show.
A BMW source said the three-cylinder will be used for the Mini brand and the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid in the United States. In Europe, the automaker is looking at using three-cylinder engines in vehicles based on its new front-wheel-drive UKL platform.
The engine could be used in hybrid and nonhybrid vehicles, the source said.
At the show here, BMW displayed a plug-in hybrid powertrain in the Concept Active Tourer, a compact fwd wagon. The concept is powered by an electric motor and a 1.5-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 190 hp, Robertson said.
"It behaves like a six-cylinder, it is half of a six-cylinder engine and has the noise of a six cylinder," he said. "The output from a relatively small engine is not what you would have imagined."
With higher fuel economy rules looming, carmakers are giving more attention to small gasoline engines in North America. Ford Motor Co. has announced it will bring its three-cylinder, 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine to the United States. Ford has not said which vehicle will get the engine, but sources say it will likely be the Fiesta.
Robertson said that customers don't necessary want to "know the ins and outs" of their engine, "but they want performance."
Bradford Wernle contributed to this report