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Mini Coupe Concept Hints at a Mini Cooper Coupe

Mini is likely to add a sportier, two-seat hatchback to its lineup, based on a concept car to be shown at the Frankfurt auto show in Germany next month.

In the United States, the Mini brand is outpacing the rest of the market, but sales are down nevertheless. Through July, U.S. sales year to date for Mini were down 18.1 percent, to 25,757, according to AutoData Corp. Auto sales for the U.S. market as a whole were down 32.1 percent year to date, to about 5.8 million.

In 2008, Mini had record U.S. sales in an otherwise disastrous market, and the Mini brand is adding U.S. dealerships, while other brands cut back.

The British-based Mini brand is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. German parent BMW revived the Mini brand in the United States in 2002.

Assuming it goes into mass production, the two-seater Mini Coupe would be the fourth body style of Mini's basic model, the Mini Cooper. The other three, all with four seats, are a two-door hardtop, a two-door convertible, and a three-door hatchback, the Mini Clubman. Mini has also shown what it calls a crossover concept car, with SUV-like styling.

The Mini Coupe Concept does away with the back seats. A lower roof for the coupe replaces the high, squared-off roofline of the four-seater models, especially at the trailing edge. With no rear seats, rear-seat headroom is not an issue for the coupe concept. Nevertheless, the coupe has a decent amount of space for cargo.

In addition, the roof in the concept car is made of aluminum, which saves weight and lowers the car's center of gravity. That's an advantage for sportier handling.

Mini is also experimenting in the United States with a tiny volume of battery powered electric cars.

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