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CHANCES THAT MINI WILL COME TO CANADA ARE IMPROVING

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Chances seem to be improving that the Rover Mini will actually go on sale in Canada, but not until sometime in 2001 at the earliest.

It seems that one of the biggest roadblocks to bringing the car to Canada went away with the move of Vic Doolan from BMW's U.S. operation to head Ford's new upscale brands division in North Amercia.

The former president of BMW Canada was not too enthusiastic about selling the new Mini in the U.S., sources inside the company's U.S. operation tell me, and no U.S. distribution would virtually have ruled out any hope of the car being sold here.

Now, the likelihood is growing that BMW's board of management will in the next couple of months approve the Mini for North America. At the same time, there seems little hope that the Rover 75 sedan that was also under consideration will ever cross the Atlantic.

If Mini does arrive in Canada, it will be the most high-spec, high-performance car in the segment, which is generally pretty low-priced and low-interest. BMW hopes to change that with a car that will as exciting and revolutionary as the original Mini was some 40 years ago.

The exterior style will closely match the Mini that was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, 1997, apparently, but the interior design is still not set.