BMW North America Inc. will limit its lineup of Rover-built Minis in the U.S. to performance versions of the car — the Cooper and Cooper S — when it begins importing the small hatchback in 2001, BMW U.S. Holding Corp. Chairman and CEO Tom Purves tells the Automotive Press Assn. in Detroit.

Both Land Rover and BMW dealers will be eligible to obtain the Mini franchise. “We will market the Mini through the most appropriate dealership per location,” Mr. Purves says. “We'll use the dealers who are most excited about having it.”

All Land Rover and BMW dealers will be trained to service the cars, he adds.

Mr. Purves says BMW recognizes the tiny Mini won't work in every market throughout the U.S., so the importer is likely to concentrate franchises in urban markets. “The Mini is a terrific opportunity for us,” he says. “We think it will be a success in urban markets, such as Atlanta, Detroit, New York.”

Prices for the new Mini should range from $16,000 to $20,000 in the U.S., he says.

At those prices, BMW sees the Mini competing with other small cars, but also with performance vehicles such as a Ford Mustang, Mr. Purves says. He believes customers will range from college students and recent graduates to older enthusiast buyers who have three or four cars in the garage and want a small runabout that's fun to drive.

Separately, Mr. Purves says there is no truth to reports Ford Motor Co. has offered to buy BMW AG. “I can tell you there is no truth to that,” Mr. Purves says. “Sure, there are a lot of people who would like to make bids, but no bids have been made.”

Ford also denies it is making a move on BMW. “The Quandt family (holders of a 48% stake in BMW) has said that they want to remain independent, and we respect that position,” Ford-Europe chairman Nick Scheele said at a meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany.