Editorial: The Oval Roundel

Featured Posts, Others | March 23rd, 2010 by 51
BMW Oval Roundel

We recently received news that BMW will be building front wheel drive cars. This news stings our ears and tears at our hearts; here’s why. …

Editorial: The Oval Roundel

We recently received news that BMW will be building front wheel drive cars. This news stings our ears and tears at our hearts; here’s why.

When a vessel is in high seas – tossed about as a toy in the bathtub by huge waves and gale force winds – there is only one source of direction, one instrument used to maintain control. A Compass. There are times when the world is spinning around you, sky trades with water trades with sky, and the only thing you can do to maintain your course is follow your instruments closely. In the case of the automotive industry, you could say we’re in a storm. Energy demands are increasing across the globe while fossil fuel reserves are dwindling, the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel is subsequently rising. Environmental concerns are shared across everyone’s agenda, from politicians to bankers to executives to homeowners: “green is in.” Automakers are met with crippling emissions standards, and even more stringent expectations loom close on the horizon. A global economic meltdown saw profits fall to deficits for many – and some companies landed flat on their backs. Chrysler and GM to name just two.

Editorial: The Oval Roundel

Yes, we are in a storm, and as the funnel clouds swirl around us, stalwarts of the auto industry cling to their values, their virtues and their character. It is difficult to build a sports car these days, “fast and economical” – can you say “oxymoron?” Core principles of some brands are therefore threatened. Ferrari is known for their raw power, yet the Italian engineers must reduce emissions from their stallion’s tail pipes dramatically. Turbo chargers are rumored to join the marque, and while we admit this approach worked well on the F40, somehow we question this adjunct on modern Ferraris, just as we question the absence of a proper manual gearbox on their latest thorough bred, the 458 Italia.

Just as melodious free-revving V-12s remind us of Ferraris; kidney grills, double round headlights, Hofmeister kinks and rear wheel drive remind us of BMW. It is not an exaggeration to say that rear wheel drive architecture is a part of BMW’s character, a hallmark of their DNA. In fact, along with perfectly balanced 50:50 weight distribution, you could say that rear wheel drive is part of the company’s identity, their very heritage. And if you don’t respect your heritage, then what do you have? At best you have a confused and misguided company, at worst you have Chrysler or GM. A living, breathing legend could lose its soul.

“… as the funnel clouds swirl around us, stalwarts of the auto industry cling to their values, their virtues and their character.”

Have you ever wondered why the aforementioned hallmarks of design are perpetuated by every existing BMW, from the dawn of the company until now? Is it because of typical German ‘stubbornness,’ a resistance to change based on pride? No, that would better describe Porsche’s rear engine layout. BMW have been consistent in maintaining the previously mentioned design highlights because they strike at mechanical perfection, the optimal way to achieve advanced goals of engineering. Take for example the kidney grills – a sound aerodynamic design that claims clean air for the radiator while allowing airflow to spill over the hood and around the car, balancing drag coefficients with cooling efficiency. Or consider the balanced chassis with equal weight sitting on the front and rear axles. Under hard braking, sufficient weight remains over the rear wheels allowing meaningful brake force to be distributed through the rear tires – the car squatting down, planted and secure.

“… you could say that rear wheel drive is part of the company’s identity, their very heritage.”

Through corners the equal balance is manifest through neutral handling, and a playful, sporting attitude. And what about rear wheel drive? Is it a layout favored for reasons of sentimentality, or does it lend a similar functional benefit? Rear wheel drive is just as critical as it perfectly capitalizes on rearward weight transfer during acceleration. Accelerative force can be distributed optimally between all four contact patches, for example, when exiting from a corner. Longitudinal and lateral accelerative forces are divided in a balanced way that does not overwhelm either the front or rear tires – hence the ‘balanced,’ neutral handling. Separating steering function from the propulsion of the vehicle isolates the front wheel’s steering duties, allowing for razor sharp, intuitive feedback through the steering wheel. Precise steering feedback is synonymous with the brand; it’s one of the reasons BMW is revered for its driving dynamics. In short, every BMW hallmark bears its purpose and collectively these design trademarks culminate in “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”

Editorial: The Oval Roundel

But heresy strikes Munich; in an effort to tap into the premium small car market, we have heard that BMW will be producing sub-compact front wheel drive cars. It has been said that in the interests of vehicle packaging, front wheel drive offers its advantages, for instance, increased rear cargo room and more space for occupants. The reality is that front wheel drive does not offer any advantage – as far as space efficiency – over rear engine, rear wheel drive layouts in the context of sub-compact cars. A prime example of this packaging can be seen in Mercedes ‘Smart’ cars. The passenger compartment is quite spacious and ample cargo space could easily be allocated at the front of the vehicle. Efficient use of space is maximized in a rear engine, rear wheel drive layout, while maintaining the dynamic advantages of rear wheel drive.

Editorial: The Oval Roundel

“… they strike at mechanical perfection, the optimal way to achieve advanced goals of engineering.”

At the expense of sounding cynical, we would suggest that BMW are turning to this front wheel drive layout in the interests of cost reduction. Front wheel drive layouts do not require as much torsional rigidity through the chassis, and this layout is less expensive to design and manufacture than front engine, rear wheel drive designs. Of course, we would be wrong to conclude that the decision to go with front wheel drive is based solely on cost reductions because the rear engine, rear wheel drive Tata Nano would most certainly prove us wrong in that regard – slapping us awake with its $2,200 price tag.

“… every BMW hallmark bears its purpose and collectively these design trademarks culminate in “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”

True, the demographic that will purchase this small front wheel drive BMW are not likely to drive quickly or search for their car’s performance limits. Performance and handling are not priorities in the concept of this new premium small car. But that is expressly why these cars must not wear blue and white – because they do not represent a brand where every other car is designed with performance in mind, dynamics in focus – with no compromise. The lightweight and compact design of this BMW could lend itself to brilliant handling and can’t-wipe-the-smile-off-your-face performance, the kind of drive that rekindles our love of the E30. That is, if not spoiled by front wheel drive’s bouncing, squealing front wheels and persistent understeer upon exiting a corner.

“… Precise steering feedback is synonymous with the brand.”

We do not envision front wheel drive spreading throughout the BMW lineup, but it saddens us that BMW are choosing this path of least resistance in the production of their new small cars. BMW has always been one of the few companies who refuse to compromise, putting design supremacy first while focused clearly on their compass. No longer will BMW be able to say that all of their cars are cut from the same cloth. Concise, confident salesman may have to temper their tone, “BMWs are the Ultimate Driving Machines, mostly… except for our small cars.” “BMW offers superior driving dynamics thanks to perfect balance and rear wheel drive, accept for the (fill in with illegitimate model) series, but mostly, we’re still the best… almost.” It’s just not quite as convincing, is it? “Eat one measly foot and they call you a cannibal” – if you compromise here, then you are clearly not steadfast. Where else will they compromise in the future? It’s as if they’re making the roundel less round.

“The lightweight and compact design of this BMW could lend itself to brilliant handling and can’t-wipe-the-smile-off-your-face performance.”

What confuses us further is the readily available solution to this issue. Produce all front wheel drive cars under the existing Mini badge, or introduce another sub-brand to represent all of BMW’s front wheel drive compact cars. Isetta comes to mind, a classy badge that has a history of producing premium small cars. Alternatively, produce these sub-compact BMWs with a rear engine, rear wheel drive layout thereby maintaining the character, handling and tradition that has set BMW apart among their competition.

Producing front wheel drive BMWs is a compromise that will cause permanent damage. The bragging rights will have been lost, the romance, cachet and history thrown away – the heritage abandoned. BMW, I ask you, where is your compass?

“It’s as if they’re making the roundel less round.”

Please keep the roundel round.

Editorial: The Oval Roundel

  • XC

    Great piece Shawn, I agree with you, absolutely. Let’s hope BMW listen to its fans and costumers and avoid cheapening the brand we all cherish. The ‘Isetta by BMW’ idea is not a bad one. Let’s wait and see…

  • Coller

    Shawn, since when did you have enough wisdom and influence to decide that this will be the end of BMW? You think BMW cares what you think? The vast majority of people cannot tell whether their car is RWD or FWD. You think you know better then BMW Management? Wake up and face the harsh realities of the business world.

    • Roger1

      “The vast majority of people cannot tell whether their car is RWD or FWD.”

      Correction: The vast majority of AMERICANS cannot tell whether their car is RWD or FWD. Most BMW drivers can tell and that’s why they drive BMWs.

    • jon H

      It’s a blog, bro. He obviously doesn’t think he is all knowing savior of BMW, and most of us read this for entertainment along with some news. This is Shawn’s take on the news, you obviously have yours, but considering that Shawn’s here is posted on a blog, and yours is in the comments, I’d say he’s got a bit more say than you.

      • X5SoB

        Oooh snap!

    • XC

      “You think BMW cares what you think?” BMW should… BMW should listen.

      • Choler

        And why exactly should they listen? Many here own 15 year olds E36s. That’s just not the target market for BMW. Try buying a brand new E90 and they might consider listening to you.

        • XC

          Are you serious? Why in this world a company should listen to its costumers? Do I have to answer that? In marketing AS IN ECONOMY, perception is reality.

          A little extra to consider: http://blog.pennlive.com/shoptalkmarketing/2009/01/why_you_should_listen_to_custo.html

          • Choler

            Yes, I’m serious. People reading this blog and you included, do not make up the majority of people buying BMWs. The majority of people buying BMWs could care less about having a single FWD model in BMW’s line-up

  • Choler

    Did you do any market studies on this FWD Shawn? How can you be so certain this is a bad move? Do you think Bmw management has not think things through? They know what they are doing. At any rate, I’m sure they are smarter then some fanboy rant.

    • Roger1

      Fanboy rant? He completely rejected BMWs decision, how is that fanboy? haha

      • Choler

        The fact that he rejected BMW’s decision does not mean he makes a good argument. There is no evidence to back-up his claim that BMW will be destroyed a a brand. He’s just speculating. I remember when the Bangle designs came out, everyone was denoucing it and saying it’s the end of BMW. Well, looks like they are wrong, sales went up through the roof.

        • Roger1

          You weren’t talking about his argument, you called him a fanboy. You don’t make any sense.

          Anyway, it never said BMW would be destroyed, he said BMWs image could be damaged (and among a certain percentage of customers, it probably will be).

          • Choler

            It is the pointless hysteria that dosen’t make sense. He is a fanboy in the sense of a bimmer enthusiast. He only see things from a narrow perspective. His own. And I’m right, this is just speculation. People were saying BMW’s brand was over when Bangle’s designs came out. But it hasn’t. And neither will this FWD. Bottom line, BMWs do not make cars to satisfy the tiny percentage of people on bmwblog. They make cars for people who buy it with their hard-earned cash. For them, the brand is not damaged.

  • Laszlo

    You ask – ” BMW, I ask you, where is your compass? ”

    I answer – Where the money is.

    Just as they created the X6M and X5M they will create FWD and AWD cars and others such as hybrids and other so-non-BMW icons. The reason is simple, at the end of the day, BMW and other brands are all capitalist businesses and as such, they must maximize their profit.
    Aston Martin and Ferrari can afford not to do things – no Ferrari hasn’t and will not compromise much of anything – but BMW just like Porsche will compromise.

    You and other sang the same song when the X5 came out. I bet you have one in your garage – a BMW TRUCK – Whoa… what horror, you and people like you said it back then. Today the X1-X3-X5-X6 are one of the best profit makers for BMW.
    The M3 ? sitting on the dealers parking lot and offered with discount !!! Hence the fact that all M models will come with an automated manuals, so people who drive automatic can drive them too. A soccer Mom with a M5 , why not ? a “business man” with an X6M – well of course ? As long as they cough up the 100 grand, BMW will cherish them and build what they want.
    Porsche Truck ? Porsche 4 door Sedan ? Have the world has stopped ? Nope.
    These things are so not important to a person who controls the lead of a car manufacturer.
    They will build what the public wants. The public wants small FWD cars for under 20grand and BMW sees the segment to grow into a large segment by 2020 so they will build it. Look at the kids who will be 16-20 in 10 years… yes, your and mine !!! They will want a small car, emission controls will be stiffer and cities will be more crowded. Will they care where the axle is ? not likely just as the current generation would not want to drive a manual transmission car either.

    get real and teach your kids to drive a manual and once they know it show them the real purpose of a RWD car – do some fast and furious drift !!!

    • Auday

      “The public wants small FWD cars for under 20grand and BMW sees the segment to grow into a large segment by 2020 so they will build it.”

      The public also want good washing machines carrying a reputable brand name, should BMW start expanding it’s brand towards that?

      BMW brand is one of the biggest assets the company has, and it is so powerful that it could sell anything…. but the more they use it on products that don’t represent the essence of the brand the more it starts losing its value.

      The success of BMW brand didn’t come from a void, it wasn’t born successful,… it came gradually from the great products that carried it, every great BMW car contributed into pushing the brand forward.
      But now BMW is thinking it is time to get the Brand to pay back to the products and help selling any car even if it’s far from the heritage of those cars that created the brand.

      • Lol

        I can’t believe you thought:

        “The public also want good washing machines carrying a reputable brand name, should BMW start expanding it’s brand towards that?”

        was a good counter or even MILDLY in the same analogy to what Laszlo said.

    • Shawn

      Laszlo,

      At no time did I ever speak against the production of the X5 or any other X vehicle. In fact, I’ve owned an E30 325ix in the past, a brilliant little car. Frankly, I was not surprised by the success of BMW’s X vehicles as they fill an important segment in the market. Further, X drive does not infringe on any BMW hallmarks of design – in fact it embraces them since X drive is set up with a torque bias to the rear, thus maintaining the dynamic advantages of rwd.

      As far as profitability, I’m confident that a BMW designed sub-compact car will be successful, I just elect that the BMW badge is reserved for cars that abide by decades of tradition and dynamics using rwd. As stated in the article, all fwd cars could be marketed under a sub-brand, such as Mini or Isetta – this would not hinder profitability (look at how successful Mini has become).

      I did not write this article for soccer moms, I wrote it for drivers who appreciate BMW driving dynamics and the history of the brand. Certainly, automotive enthusiasts and weekend track day drivers are the minority, but we are nonetheless an important demographic.

      We appreciate everyone’s comments and the energy in this debate.

      Shawn

  • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, while I tend to be on BMW’s side this time, Shawn has a different vision, opinion and yes, he is entitled to expose it. No one claimed him, I or anyone else will ever influence BMW’s decisions, but opinions need to be heard. I can see in Shawn’s article a lot of the ideas that I’ve heard offline and yes, among BMW fans, there is a concern. Will they get over it? Most likely.
    Is BMW the company to build a great FWD? No doubt.

    This article shows that we are far from fanboys and we’re not always on their side.

    • jon H

      A bit of a flame war here Horatiu.

  • finlaw

    FWD BMW is a sacrilege. They can easily use one of the British badges they purchased to build FWD cars. Why sully the name of BMW.

  • mark

    Really that’s a overly lengthy text where you spend only a couple of sentences examining the reason given by BMW for producing front wheel drive small cars. You assert that there is *no advantage* gained from fwd transmission with regards to space! You write thousands of words about BMW sacrificing tradition, dynamics, balance and weight distribution then offer the rear engined Smart car as your sole reasoning?!

    • CalebC

      It’s all about the sacrifice of tradition. That’s what most people are taking exception to. We already know that BMW can build a great FWD vehicle. Be bold. Release it under another mark.

    • Shawn

      Mark,

      Please note this quote from the article, “The reality is that front wheel drive does not offer any advantage – as far as space efficiency – over rear engine, rear wheel drive layouts in the context of sub-compact cars.” Like fwd, rear engined rwd cars have the engine very close to the drive wheels thereby offering a highly compact, space efficient design. There is no drive shaft running the length of the vehicle and less torsional rigidity is required through the chassis. Ultimately, both layouts save costs, and offer a space efficient design. The front of the car (as well as the rear above the engine) can be devoted to space and storage, thus making it ideal for an ultra compact design where space is very limited and the footprint of the vehicle is small.

      The Smart car was only mentioned as one example (there are many others) in this context as you will note in the article.

      We encourage debate and appreciate everyone’s comments and opinion.

      Shawn

  • CalebC

    *Stands and applauds*
    Bravo!

  • Auday

    Great writeup Shawn! and many thanks to the Blog and Horatiu for putting some focus on the other side!
    One thing I want to mention here is that producing cars like that is also affecting the focus on building real BMW cars, and the evidences are obvious, no Z4M, no super car, Turbo charged M cars, softer new generation cars….etc.

    It’s not the end of BMW for sure, but it might be the end of the essence of BMW brand that we know and love.

  • InvincibleM5

    To be honest, I really don’t care if BMW wants to produce a FWD car because, we knew they can do it and it drives like a RWD. I think this is part of the market. We need to find profit and not loss. Look what happen to Porsche, they ususally made rear-engined Sportscar but now, Cayenne we have, Panamera… They have a lot of money!

    I agree if they want to go for the FWD, at least for the entry series. But if they go for a FWD on the 3er, then I have to say, BMW really have lost their compass. In the near future, all the cars CO2 emmision will be super tight, we’re running out of fuel source and with this global warming issue. BMW made the right choice I believe.

    Laszlo has a good point IMO. So I think better you guys read his comment :)

  • AJ Hander

    Mr Molnar, do you even know where the engine on a Smart is located? I’ve become accostomed to reading twisted facts and rumors here, but this article takes the cake when you attempt to claim that RWD can offer similar packaging to FWD. The author of this article has obviously never worked on his car or even atleast tried to look under his car, otherwise he would know why that is a a blatant lie.

    As for the rest of the article, it was well written in the sense that he used the thesaurus heavily, but to me a well written article answers questions and is based on sound judgement, neither of which were demonstrated here.

    • Roger1

      “Mr Molnar, do you even know where the engine on a Smart is located?”

      He probably does, he said it in the article – it is rear engine, rear wheel drive. Where did you think the engine was?

      Rear engine Rwd does have similar packaging to fwd because the engine and drive wheels are tight together so its very compact (no drive shaft the length of the car) thats why smart and others have done this design. It also allows one end of the car to be used exclusively for space and storage. I guess you know better than them?

      Get your facts straight.

  • X5SoB

    I”m sorry Horatiu, but I have to agree with Shawn on this one, BMW needs to maintain its carefully built reputation, and build FWD cars under the Isetta name. If they want to capitalize on economies of scale, they need to take a lesson from Fiat, the drivetrain of the X1/9 was lifted in its entirety from the FWD 128. Such a senario with the Mini drivetrain would make sweet vehicle if dropped into a chassis like the Vision ED. On a lighter note, BMW has been building front wheel drive cars for quite a while now, they usually have an “X” in their name… :)

  • XC

    Point is, if they loose their compass, BMW will see it’s much more profitable to stop making M cars, stop Motorsports’ program (as they did with F1), and start making sub-compact Rolls-Royces. And do not put Porsche as an example, because, like it or not, its ‘divine’ allure of yore has surely diluted a bit… they are still great sports cars, but no longer in the same league as Ferrari, for example. Is BMW smart enough to build great FWDs? Yes, no doubt! But it should be smart enough not to mess with that BMW allure, and build their FWDs under another brand. And I insist, “Isetta by BMW” is a good name for that purpose since it’s THE BRAND for hard times, and it can be easily ‘connected’ with BMWs own tradition and history.

  • Gord

    Honestly, BMW should use one of those British brand names they own.

  • http://www.bmwblog.com JL

    I dont think that making a FWD car is so bad. I mean look at cars like the Mini Ford Focus/ Fiesta. They are all great handling cars and guess what ? Theyre all FWD. And anyway people buying this type of car aka 25 to 30 year olds wont a brand they know and know thats great . Something like Isseta will turn people off. If it spreads any further up the range then ill be angry. I think more BMW fans should be more concerned about cars like the 5 GT which are completely comfort orientated taking BMW away fron The Ultimate Driving Machine and into Lazy Buissness Mens Express

  • MP

    i DON’T WANT TO DRIVE & HEAR ABOUT FRONT WHEEL BMW …NEVER…i DON’T WANT STUPID AUDI’S DRIVING.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Cybo

    I remember a BMW concept car from the 90′s. It was called the Z13.
    It was a great example of how a car can be small, useful and fun at the same time.
    I encourage you to look for images of it on Google. I’ll leave you with one to whet your appetite.
    http://www.allcarpictures.com/pictures/bmw/z13/bmw-z13.jpg

  • Choler

    Most of the comments here saying how horrible a FWD BMW just shows how detached many of you are from the real world. Why? Well, let’s see:

    1. We are talking about a single FWD model in the subcompact class here. It’s not like like the core models (1,3,5 and 7 series) will suddenly adopt FWD as well. And in case you forget, there is still a M division here for those who want extra peformance.

    2. All those talking about losing the “Heritage” and “Romance” of the brand should wake up from their la la land. BMW is no longer a niche brand. I’m sorry to say, but they no longer need any of you bimmer fans around. The days when they rely on us to buy the 2002s are long gone. Most people buy BMWs as status symbols. They could care less whether their car is FWD or RWD. So what if there is a FWD? If it can turn out extra profit and sales, they will do it. This is the reality of the business world. Don’t like it, well tough luck.

    3. Why should BMW listen to any of you? You think you will make so much as a dent on sales if all of us here stop buying BMWs? Go ahead, boycott BMWs, see if it makes any difference.

    4. We are just speculating here. There is no real evidence to back-up your claims that BMW will be ruined if they go FWD. Frankly, I think alll of you are too arrogant to assume you know better how to run the company then BMW Management themselves. I bet you will all the run the company into the ground if you given the keys of the company.

  • kcsnayud

    Huff… You guys are all right. But I must make a point about fwd. When you brake, fwd sends the braking power to the front wheels, thus it’s possible to flip the car over if you do emergancy brake. Rwd takes the braking power to the back wheels, therefore much safer. So Rwd doesn’t just affect performance, it affects safety as well. If BMW doesn’t listen to us, this is what will happen:

    m3, m5, and m6 will get discontinued.
    The 1, 3, 5, 6, and 7 series, z4, x1, x3, x5 will all become fwd.
    Then the 7 series will get discontinued.
    The 3 will go downmarket.
    Audi will kick bmw’s butt.
    Bmw will get bankrupt.

    See what I mean…

    • XC

      lol

    • Choler

      Really kcsnayud? Where is your evidence to say that there will be FWD cars for the rest of BMW’s line-up? And the end of M division? How do you know that? Yet another baseless (and utterly wrong) speculation. I think it is more likely that you will go bankrupt before BMW does.

  • Dennis

    Choler you are really trying to convince us that FWD BMWs is not such a bad thing and that the BMW heads are more clever than us. Let’s assume that this is the case, ’cause otherwise they would not be employed by BMW, but what makes you so certain that clever people don’t make poor decisions? Because for me this is a poor decision, and one that I hope will not cost BMW dearly. Just as we hoped that with the new uber 1-series the brand would return to its roots (E30 M3), they are trying hard to sell us this FWd thing. Well I am not sold and I really hope that the majority of buyers won’t be as well.

    As for BMW going bankrupt if they follow this path, how can you be sure that they won’t? One poor decision (such as this) could bring the whole thing down in flames. Numerous companies have gone bust just by making one wrong call and never recovering from it.

    One last thing: I can’t figure out why you support this story. Are you one of “the management people”? Because I would like to say something about that lot, but I don’t know how understanding the staff of the blog are. (hint: the word begins with D, ends with S and has a B, a U, an M,an A and an S).

  • Choler

    Nope, I’m not a management type. But I do know something about how the auto business is run. I’m just pointing out the fact that the sad little fact that you don’t have the full picture. You don’t know what is like to run a cutthroat business like the auto industry. You think running a auto firm like BMW is easy? Calling me or others dumbasses don’t change the fact that you don’t have a clue, buddy. And in case you are wondering, don’t you think it’s strange that a group of dumbasses can still keep BMW in the black while so many automakers are in the red? Use your head rather then your emotion. Think before you type.

  • Dennis

    BMW is still in the black because they have brought some controversial products in the market in recent years without compromising the image of the brand. When 1 series hatchback was introduced in Europe, it was a really fresh product with a new perspective. It was a RWD car with dynamic handling in an ocean of FWD Golfs and A3s and A-Klasses. And BMW capitalised on that specific characteristic. The pre-LCI 1 series was somewhat below par in therms of interior quality compared to the rest of the brand and to some extent to the segment, but it did not matter because it could offer something that any of its competitors could not. And that made it a success.

    Now, how can a brand with no tradition on FWD compete against the rest of the lot? OK MINI is a success and can offer tremendous know-how on FWD to a company that has none, but how can BMW persuade a buyer to choose their product agianst a Golf or an A3? Those guys have been building FWD cars since the beginning of time and know every single kink of it and how to counter it. So they have a really clear advantage over BMW on the matter.

    As for CO2 emissions, come on BMW. You have the lowest CO2 average after FIAT. And they have some really small engines. Surely you can downsize more.

  • atr_hugo

    Well here’s my two cents. ; -)

    BMW’s reputation as the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ didn’t pop out of the ground fully formed in 1916 with all BMW engineers vowing to use nothing other than the ‘systeme Panhard’ for a drive layout. In fact BMW’s first attempt at producing a car of their own utilized a boxer motorrad engine and, GASP, FWD in the early 1920s. They ended up buying the Eisenach Motor Werke instead, probably because before the advent of a workable constant velocity joint, FWD was a pain.

    And then, right after WW II, BMW experimented with FWD again and produced a prototype car, the 513. That car still exists (in private hands, IIRC) but suffice to say they thought hard about producing it. (They ended up building the 502/503 ‘Baroque Angels’ because they could build fewer with higher margins – and building any cars was difficult in that period for BMW.)

    So now, here sits BMW, with production totals under the magic two million mark. (Which some believe is the size required to remain independent – if you don’t trust the Quandts to continue their desire to hold the majority of stock.) They need to do something to build sales and given the regulatory environment (pun intended), they need to build a lighter, more fuel efficient base model. And they need to do that with a premium vehicle that can command the margins needed to keep R&D up for the future.

    I think Shawn is onto something with the notion of placing the engine transversely at the rear, ala Smart. But for some reason that configuration, which was prevalent on the ‘bubble cars’ of the fifties, fell out of favor after the introduction of the Mini in 1959. I haven’t found out if that was because of fashion or function to be honest.

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