ZURICH (Reuters) – With its quirky egg shape and minimalist interior, the bubble car was a symbol of cheap and cheerful mobility on European roads in the 1950s and 60s.
Chief Operating Officer Oliver (L) and his brother Chief Marketing Officer Merlin Ouboter of Swiss Microlino AG pose beside an electricpowered Microlino car in Kuesnacht, Switzerland July 13, 2018. Picture taken July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
Today, two Swiss brothers are developing a new version of the twoseater, a full 56 years after BMW halted production of its famed Isetta after churning out more than 160,000 vehicles.
Oliver and Merlin Ouboter have more than 7,200 orders for their Microlino, a modern version of the Isetta which swaps the old single-cylinder petrol engine for a 20 horsepower electric motor but keeps the famous front
opening door. The brothers, whose father Wim made millions from modernized kick-scooters, plan to launch the car in December.
“The average modern car is way too big for normal use,” said Oliver, the project’s 24-year-old operations chief.
They built two prototypes in China and displayed one at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, where
enthusiasts received them warmly.
We started a reservations list with 500 spots on it, and in three or four days it was filled up,” said Merlin, 22, the chief marketing officer.
The standard vehicle has a range of 120 km and a top speed of 90 km/h. It charges in four hours from a normal plug for roughly 1.50 euros. Its trunk holds up to 300 liters, while the instrumentation is bare bones.
Only 2.4 meters long, it fits in a tiny parking space and its front-opening door means occupants won’t be boxed in.
After launching 100 units this year, the brothers from just outside Zurich plan to build 1,500 to 2,000 cars next year, eventually increasing that to 5,000 per year. If they are a hit, annual output could reach 10,000 vehicles.
“We hope this in some small way can contribute to more environmentally friendly mobility,” said Merlin, “but also do it in a fun and cool way.”