BMW CEO: “Ready for front drive”

News | March 25th, 2010 by 42
bmw fwd

The BMW front-wheel drive saga continues. Reports after reports come to confirm that BMW’s plans to build a front-wheel drive vehicle in the future are …

The BMW front-wheel drive saga continues. Reports after reports come to confirm that BMW’s plans to build a front-wheel drive vehicle in the future are past the planning stage. In our opinion, being open about their future FWD plans, BMW is also conducting a market study to test consumers’ reactions and industry analysts’ response.

To move away from the driving point, let’s focus a bit on the latest article from UK magazine Autocar. Quoting BMW’s CEO Norbert Reithofer, Autocar reports that BMW brand is strong enough to branch out into building front-wheel drive cars.

At a recent event, Reithofer outlined BMW’s medium term product strategy and also “touched” the latest survey on BMW 1 Series and the false assumption of a FWD vehicle.

BMW CEO: Ready for front drive

“It is true about 80 percent of the 1-series owners we surveyed either thought their car was front wheel drive or that they didn’t know the layout. But these were the drivers of the three and five-door hatchback models.”

So, in other words, the 1-Series enthusiasts are grouped around the Coupe model and those very same owners are aware the differences between RWD and FWD. Fair assumption?

It certainly seems like it since in his next comment, Reithofer states:

“However, nearly all the owners of 1-series coupe models knew their car was rear-wheel drive. These buyers appreciate the driving dynamics of rear-drive. But for other owners they bought the 1-series because of the engineering and the quality and engine performance and so on.”

Now while this is a fact proved over and over before, it still comes as a surprise to us that there is such a clear separation between the owners of these two 1 Series variants.

A logic question arise: what was the point behind this survey? Marketing scope? Brand perception?

“This research has helped us to be confident that BMW can build front-drive cars in a new market segment. But the next 1-series, when it is launched in 18 months or so, will be rear-wheel drive, as will all the future variants.”

Stay tuned, the saga will certainly continue……..

[Source: Autocar ]

  • Bryce

    I like the idea of restarting the Isetta name with FWD vehicles… however, since Mini is already FWD I don’t see another off-brand FWD vehicle.

    Also, maybe BMW should stick to what they learned in the survey and make JUST the 3 and 5 door models FWD. We don’t get the 3 and 5 door models here in the U.S. anyways, so it’s not like it would make a big difference here! All the enthusiasts could keep on being enthusiasts, while all the clueless could keep on being clueless!

  • XC

    Reithofer’s crusade is to have a FWD BMW… So throw at him any argument, he’s ‘ready for front drive’ (and he’s got the appropriate surveys to prove it).

    And that infamous ’80%’ survey ‘justification’ is plain lame… just like a crab… walking backwards.

    Lol, and we day-dreaming about a R8 challenger…Starting with him: http://www.worldcarfans.com/109082121183/audi-inspired-bmw-r8-appears-on-the-street

    • Simba

      Just because a small group didn’t know their car was RWD, this Reithofer wants to trash BMW’s tradition and brand value by building front wheel drive cars so that he can cut some costs and earn more profits for this small group??? I have never heard something so STUPID for a long time.

      My question to this CEO is: Why did BMW fail to market to its customers about one of the core competitive advantages of the 1 Series HATCH – BEING THE ONLY CAR IN ITS SEGMENT TO OFFER THIS SETUP FOR BETTER DRIVING DYNAMICS…. was he so busy with his strategy no.1 to cut costs that he spent less on marketing this feature!

      Previous CEO was right, if you put lipstick on a dog, it will still be a dog – BUT THERE IS NOTHING STOPPING A HUMAN FROM BEING A DOG!

      • Doug

        Yeah… what does owner perception have to do with actual performance?

        If they test drove a new FWD 1-series and decided from the experience that BMW wasn’t as good as they remember -for whatever reason- what has that gained?

        There is one good case for FWD though, in a BMW hybrid AWD — if the engine drove the fronts and electrics drove the rears.

  • LMendez

    THIS IS MADNESS!!!!!

    • BMWM6

      THIS IS SPARTAAAAAAAAAAAA

  • Choler

    You people complaining on the FWS fails to note several things regarding the real world:

    1. The no. of people buying BMWs as status symbol and those that buy as enthuasist is like 100:1. BMW cannot be expected to cater to you group of people alone. If that was the case, it would have gone out of business along time ago. BMW is no longer a niche brand. It is the world’s largest premium automaker. It has shareholders to satisfy. It needs to expand it’s product line and increase it’s sales and profits.

    2. BMW is NOT abandoning rear-wheel drive. We are only talking about a subcompact below the 1 series. Where does it say the 3 and 5 series will suddenly adopt FWD. Use your head and don’t be silly.

    3. Who says BMW is abandoning sportiness? Hello, they just introduced the 335is coupe and the Z4 sdriveis, both more sporty then the previous offerings. And last time I check, the M division is still here and is here to stay.

    Long story short, please use your head rather then your emotions.

    • XC

      Ok, you are Reithofer’s personal secretary.

      • Choler

        touche. :)

    • CalebC

      BMW will lose it’s “Status Symbol” prestige if they continue to dilute the brands DNA. They will likely see short term gains as prices go down, but people who buy for status will not continue to do so as the brand becomes adulterated. The more sales of $25,000 cars they make and the more available to the general public they become the less and less “status” the Roundel will hold. This is actually an even bigger threat than disappointing the enthusiasts. You’re right; enthusiasts will ignore any FWD offerings; some will stick around to indulge in the ///M, 3-series, etc. offerings, but not those buying the logo. Dilute the brand, ruin it’s cachet, and don’t expect them to stick around.

  • XC

    Dear Susanne and Stefan:

    Please pull the strings as you did back in 99′ with Pischetsrieder; it`s time to stop alienating BMW’s fans. Can’t you see your costumer’s discomfort? Is Strategy Number ONE worth diluting BMW cachet and value?

    Regards.

  • InvincibleM5

    “This research has helped us to be confident that BMW can build front-drive cars in a new market segment. But the next 1-series, when it is launched in 18 months or so, will be rear-wheel drive, as will all the future variants.”

    That makes me happy :)

  • Choler

    Give up guys. You really don’t know how auto business work in real life do you?

    1. Brand dilution: Yes, this is a danger. But it depends on how BMW intend to apply this FWD subcompact. Again, you are seeing things from a narrow enthusiat perspective. When Mercedes had their A and B class, everyone was decrying Mercedes will become a “down-market” brand. Well, it looks like Mercedes is still regarded as a premium brand. The S Class is still the top selling large luxury sedan. The same with the 1 series. People were saying the 1 series would cheapen the BMW brand and result in loss sales. Well did it? BMW had record sales during the first few years when 1 series came out. The key is how BMW intend to fit this FWD stepchild with the rest of the product lineup. Or will it standalone? We shall see.

    2. Market study: Do you think BMW would be so stupid as to push for a FWD without doing some market studies to gauge what the market wants? The R&D involved in designing and manufacturing a new car model is’nt cheap, easy or quick. BMW will only do this if they know there is a market for this product.

    • XC

      Gee, there was a time when posting and reading comments in this blog was fun. Seem we are losing the JOY here. (Sigh).

  • m3forever

    Don’t worry XC. A contentious issue like FWD is bound to bring out heated debate. With time, things will past.

  • plaxico

    im ready for laughing my ass off………………..
    bmw fwd …,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,nice LMAO

    • wazon8

      Even if I’m not happy with their decision to make subcompact FWD, I can say that it will be a way batter than trolley-like A- and B-class. Don’t forget about these last two cars before you open you mouth next time.

      • viper

        wazon…no one cares about a and b class , it is not a what MB stands for , they filled some gaps with those two…but a bmw fwd , thats lmfao lmffffaoooo hahahah

        • plaxico

          exactly vip …… i was so fed up with explaining that. Whenever i mention s, cl, sl, cls, slr,sls-amg to bmw fans thay go from dr jekl to mr.hyde.Hmmmm imagine that

          • viper

            Totally plax. Mercedes are super cute and really pretty, heehee!!! I should know, my mummies got one.

          • XC

            LOL, viper finally showing ‘his’ rue colors, LMAO

  • mark

    The difference of opinion here is the Atlantic ocean. In the US the majority of BMW buyers do so for the prestigious brand and the status they believe they will receive from their peers. This is why BMW don’t release small diesels over there, you’re all way too concerned about brand and image, things like co2 emissions and global warming barely register.

    • X5SoB

      Gee, gross overgeneralizations are usually the pervue of ignorant Americans, not Europeans. There are many American enthusiasts who care about global warming, efficient dynamics, and would love to have a Diesel as an option. Also, there are plenty of Europeans who are concerned about image and brand. I don’t think a large body of water has anything to do with that.

      • mark

        majority |məˈjôrətē; -ˈjär-|
        noun ( pl. -ties)
        1 the greater number : in the majority of cases all will go smoothly | [as adj. ] it was a majority decision.
        • the number by which votes for one candidate in an election are more than those for all other candidates combined.
        • Brit. the number by which the votes for one party or candidate exceed those of the next in rank.
        • a party or group receiving the greater number of votes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1162736798 Franz Anthofer

    Super gut

  • viper

    I never thought the day would come..fwd bmw , touche

  • ak

    i still love BMW

  • Guy

    First they said BMWs will always be naturally aspirated, that went to hell. They had classic good looks., Thats gone. Then they said no trucks for the M Brand, that went to hell. Flame surfacing? Idrive? and now Front Drive??? Obviously BMW does not care about the enthusiast but rather their customers in China.

  • billmilo

    I will never buy a front wheel drive bimmer.

    • Choler

      Go ahead, don’t buy. See if BMW cares.

      • billmilo

        I don’t care if BMW cares. Unlike some, I didn’t buy a rear wheel drive, three-pedal BMW for the badge. I will never buy a front wheel drive luxury/performance car. If there are no good cars left, I’ll buy a Japanese car which is a lot less expensive to buy and maintain.

  • LMendez

    If you must buy a FWD car you’ll buy an Audi lol!

  • LMendez

    That’s why the FWD “BMW” shant ever see the light outside the womb of stupidity.

  • hboyd328

    Reithofer is looking at his statistic in a completely wrong way. Just because 80% of those drivers THOUGHT it was front wheel drive, didn’t mean that their preference IS FWD. They just didn’t care. So, Reithofer is basically telling us that BMW has gotten to the point where it is such a popular marque, that he can just slide things right by its consumers. Oh they don’t really mind that its not RWD, so why not just go the easy way out, save a little space and cost, and build a FWD car! They won’t know the difference, right?!?

    It sounds like a good idea from a business standpoint (I guess), but will really only positively affect the brand for a short term. Sure, BMW may be able to sell a small and affordable car to a broader market, but its not gonna end at FWD. Then before you know it, you have just another plain and spiritless corporation and the product will reflect that.

    Its only the beginning. Its diluting the brand (as others have been saying) and with more of these surveys, they will find out everything their customers are clueless about on the car. Then, they will find out a way cut corners within what the consumer doesn’t know. Before you know it, BMWs won’t be so great anymore.

    It just makes me sad. I love BMW and so do all of you. I know once this kind of thing starts, it won’t stop. I hope it doesn’t happen to you, BMW. I know we enthusiasts are a minority, but maybe you should try and listen to the people who actually CARE about your cars.

    • Choler

      Yet another baseless assumption. Where did you get the information that BMW will start cutting corners? You have any statistic or credible source to back-up your claim? What has this got to do with a FWD BMW? Why are you assuming that BMW don’t care about you? If they did’nt care, why are they introducing more sporty models like the 335is?! They do care about you, just not as much as the mass buyers who BMW for different reasons.

      • XC

        I don’t get why you are so angry, choler; people here are only showing their respect and, say, love for the BMW brand. You seem to like BMW too, but for the wrong reasons. You are basically defending tooth and nail management decisions, even if it have just caused a wide range of emotions form the existing BMW fan base -from sadness to anger-, and caused embarrassment to BMW owners (when idiotic vultures come and tell you ‘have heard the news? And you so full of pride, hahaha’ etc. just like viper and plaxico here).

        You get to the point to insult us basically treating us as ignorants, arrogant, and insignificant to the brand we do not only have chose to own, but love and cherish.

        And yet, any businessman with half a brain will tell you that the first thing you have to do as a commercial operation is to listen to what the customer wants.

        I really hope that you are just an opinionated guy with a computer, and not part or in any way involved in BMW AG, because if that’s the case and you somehow represent the current management ‘philosophy’, it would be a very very sad scenario where the only damaged will be the customers (who have actually made BMW the world’s largest premium auto maker), and ultimately, BMW itself.

        And lastly, nobody here is saying BMW must not make a FWD car, just market it under a different brand; it will still be 100% BMW, it will be associated instantly with BMW, just like MINI, but it won’t be a RWD BMW…

  • n8n

    I hope it’s just a stupid rumors… if BMW will start to produce front wheel drive cars I will change my beloved car company to other one… don’t know yet which one…

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  • billmilo

    The brand is starting to cheapen. Might have to say “Hello Porsche” one of these days.

  • Tiberiu

    This is stupid! It will damage the brand and make Audi lough!!

  • JakeM

    Nobody seemed to bitch about the 335i a few years ago that was TURBOCHARGED. I guess people were looking at the horsepower figure, not at the TURBO. Has the TURBOCHARGED 335i damaged BMW’s reputation or image? No. In fact thousands of enthusiasts are buying these TURBOCHARGED BMW 335′s.

    Also, those people who call themselves “BMW fans” and have bitched about a BMW with forced induction being “wrong” don’t know their BMW history obviously. Ever heard of the BMW 2002 Turbo? Guess not. Reminds me of those “BMW fans” who claim that “a 4-cylinder BMW is not a real BMW” – Really? Guess the first-generation BMW M3 was not a real BMW then…

    A FWD BMW below the 1 series makes perfect sense in today’s world. Small cars with weaker engines and a FWD layout are perfectly manageable these days. A 200-220-hp FWD car seems to be the absolute limit these days for stable and enjoyable performance driving (sans torque steer), but at the same time it’s the torque rating which will play a large part in the initial acceleration and traction of this FWD BMW. I’ve heard that base model Audi A4 TDI’s can torque steer like crazy in the wet because of the massive torque figures.

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