BMW considered buying Volvo earlier this year, and went as far as requesting a complete breakdown of Volvo’s financial position from a European investment bank, which is handling enquiries on behalf of Volvo’s owners Ford, a British car magazine said.

Industry sources also told Autocar that BMW had earlier looked at taking over Alfa Romeo.

The magazine said it had learned from “industry experts” that BMW is considering expanding its range of brands to aid the company’s future growth as well as underpinning its front-wheel-drive MINI division by greatly expanding its output.

Autocar said it was thought some managers saw Volvo as a global brand complimentary to BMW that still has considerable scope for growth. BMW would continue to emphasise driving pleasure while Volvo would add safety and environmental concerns to the mix.

However, BMW’s UK corporate spokeswoman Angela Stangroom said that, having talked to senior management about the magazine’s report, she had established there was “no substance” to it. “It’s speculation and we don’t comment on speculation,” she added.

Autocar also claimed the future of the Mini brand is causing BMW “a considerable headache” as it has been forced to make major investments by redesigning the new hatchback, as well as engineering the Mini Clubman estate.

Mini sales are still down on their 2005 peak, and BMW insiders reportedly have told Autocar that a total annual output of 250,000 to 270,000 cars is not enough to secure a profitable long-term future for the Mini brand.

An annual output of 500,000 upmarket Volvo and Mini front-drive cars would have ensured long-term profitability, the magazine suggested.

Stangroom said this issue had been repeatedly raised by UK journalists with senior BMW management and she had never heard any of the company’s top executives raise concern at the current levels of planned Mini output. The Oxford plant is currently being boosted to 240,000 a year and approval has been received for a further increase to 300,000 if needed.

“There have been so signs that current volume is a problem,” she said.

Autocar also suggested that the news that BMW is again seriously considering buying a major car maker would shock the industry after the seven-year Rover Group debacle begun in 1994.