A regular now on BMWBLOG, Dr. Kay Segler, BMW M CEO sat down with us one more time to discuss the future of M brand and what to anticipate from the most emotional division within BMW Group. The conversation shifted from the fans’ current favorite BMW, the 1M, to the upcoming F10 M5 and a potential new emotional M car that could arrive within the next 12 months.
To make the interview even more interesting, Dr. Segler invited us into the “secret” Security Vehicles room where a BMW 7 Series Security was being displayed for anonymous and very important customers. Recently, BMW M division took over the development of the security vehicles and Dr. Segler shared with us the reasoning behind this.
BMWBLOG: Since we are in the Security Vehicles room, can you elaborate on the transition of this development to the M brand?
Dr. Kay Segler Basically, the armored cars, as well as the authority cars, police cars, etc. – all these cars are in a way special cars, they need special attention, and basically this fits to what we are best able to do. That is the reason why they were added. It is a very interesting business. We also offer all the driver trainings; the Driver Training is also part of the M Division. It totally fits our values.
BMWBLOG: And now moving to M cars, how do you envision the future of BMW M?
Dr. Kay Segler Bright! I think the most important thing is that you have to lead the team to believe the future can be shaped, and not governed by destiny. And as you see, the 1M Coupe was such an example, where you simply can do it and you want to do it. And therefore I say ‘bright’ because we have a good team, a strong team and as long as there is a business case for a vehicle, then we can decide to build it.
BMWBLOG: Did you see the short development time being a disadvantage on producing the 1M?
Dr. Kay Segler No, because we combined the time with clear decisions. When there was a discussion, for instance “shall we have manual and double flaps and/or automatic”?, it was pretty clear, we had only one shot and said “No”, we only had one shot and we went for the right choice and that was it. Then the engineers can go on, they don’t need to divide their attention to other points. Therefore, I think when you have limited time, limited resources, you must be pretty clear on what you want to have and what you don’t want to have. Three colors, for example. And once you make these decisions pretty early in the process, then it’s fine.
BMWBLOG: Is the customers’ ‘response to the 1M what you have expected?
Dr. Kay Segler No.
BMWBLOG: Is it more than you expected?
Dr. Kay Segler Yes (smiling). As we already discussed, we were also curious what would be the color choice, what is the most favorite one and when we got the results, we were pretty astonished that all three colors had basically equal shares in polls. The info came out of our office, based on buyers’ opinions.
BMWBLOG: Tell us about the engine development – how hands-on is BMW M with engine development? This includes current and future models as well.
Dr. Kay Segler For the engine that we had in the 1M Coupe, we had a very solid base for the engine, so we already had 90-95% of the engine complete. Otherwise we couldn’t have done it cost-wise or price-wise, at least not in due time. When it comes to the M5, on the other hand, we – and you will see it in the future – we share a certain architecture with other coming engines as well. Then it’s clearly defined who’s responsible for which part. For example the exhaust manifold – that is clearly a specialty from us, nobody but us could touch that idea. (Our Note: BMW has a patent on this technology which was introduced in the X5M and X6M engines).
BMWBLOG: Why the shift from naturally aspirated engines to turbocharged engines in M cars?
Dr. Kay Segler First of all, as we discussed, we have no dogmas. I wouldn’t say “shift”, but simply define that “this or that technology” is the right technology to use. And we’re not thinking “I shift from here to there”, but rather decide “that’s the right thing to do”. Whether it’s different to what we did, it’s a second question.
So what is the advantage of turbo engines?
Fuel consumption is one of them, and a disadvantage can be that they are not revving as high as naturally-aspirated engines. But we define our turbo systems as “high-revving turbo engines”, and when you look into the rev rate, it’s much higher than in normal aspirated engines in other cars. Just compare it to some of our lovely competitors, and you will see we are revving higher than our cars of the past, but also higher than competitors’ engines. Therefore we can’t compare turbo with turbo.
BMWBLOG: You were saying about the rev limit. What importance does sound play in the experience of an M car? Because that’s one thing you keep hearing from people – that “it doesn’t have the same sound, it’s a turbo engine”.
Dr. Kay Segler Sound has maybe two functions: the one like in an opera, when the play starts, you are there in the car or in the opera, the play begins. And the sound must definitely fit to the play. But then a more important thing is when you make an experiment – when you put ear plugs or you cover your ears to the extent where you basically hear nothing, then just go do a drive on the race track. Most probably you will feel disoriented after a short while, feeling very strange. So the sound for us is a feedback and the feedback orientation is very important. Once you accelerate, you exactly feel and hear – okay, that’s the acceleration you get, that is what will happen, and so on. Therefore, that’s the aspect we’re looking in sound. I would not support concepts where you simply have a disconnected sound.
BMWBLOG: Are you trying to get more people behind the wheel of an M car by making the 1M more “mainstream”?
Dr. Kay Segler Is the Formula 1 car a good car?
BMWBLOG: Well, it depends on what you want to do with it.
Dr. Kay Segler Exactly. The same is true for all cars. There is a big difference in what you want to achieve with the concept – and that must be crystal clear. So with the 1M Coupe, the purpose is to really cater for young people, and to present the statement that we are the youngest brand in that segment, that we are setting trends towards the younger people, which means there must be a clear-cut, easy-to-understand car, and that’s the 1M.
If you are more sophisticated, more experienced, more technology-savvy and can afford a higher price, then the M3 is the choice. So I think it’s not a question of deviating, is about which character is being offered to the customer.
BMWBLOG: In a previous interview we had with Dr.Theissen, he said that the M3 is the pinnacle of the BMW M . My questions are: does this put any pressure on your group to develop a better car all the time, and second – do you use the feedback that you get from Motorsport, to build future M cars?
Dr. Kay Segler Yes, especially since the discontinuation of the Formula 1, we are concentrating very much on the M3 – especially M3, also Z4, but M3 in particular, and for instance we are building the M3 GT4 in our company, and our friends at BMW Motorsports are running the cars. It’s a very intense cooperation, and maybe will be more intense in the future. That’s the focus of what we both do and I guess in the future there’s also one other technology that we definitely can use directly from the race program.
BMWBLOG: Without getting into specifics about future cars, do you see alternative drivetrains being available in M Cars? Will we see an electric M hybrid or a diesel M car?
Dr. Kay Segler Maybe there are two limits when it comes to technologies or drivetrains. Let’s consider drivetrains. The one is if there is a business case and whether it fits within the brand. When you talk electric, just take any electric car and run it along Nurburgring – hopefully you’ll make it back to the start. So it’s another car, with another purpose. So for a race car, that concept doesn’t fit.
When it comes to diesel, we were the one winning first in the Nurburgring 24 hours race with the diesel, and diesel is such is an interesting concept. BMW engines are brilliant from the technology side and it would be an interesting concept, only if the markets were supporting diesel.
It’s a pity that big markets like United States and China are not supporting diesel – all Latin America isn’t really supporting diesel, almost every Asian country is not supporting diesel, including Japan. So then you are basically limited more or less to Europe, especially very strong in Southern Europe- Italy, Spain, so that makes it difficult to run any business case for a diesel concept. But just from the sportiness point of view, diesel is maybe not for a pure racecar, but for performance cars it is very interesting.
BMWBLOG: In the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of competition coming from the performance premium segment: we have the RS5, the AMG cars, etc. What differentiates M from the competition?
Dr. Kay Segler When you lead, you don’t look left and right. We can only explain where we come from, from Motorsport, and we also feel that we have the obligation to set some new trends, like for instance we set a lot of trends like the carbon fiber roof, and carbon fiber parts.
Another trend –especially through the technology of turbo – we can create a lot of horsepower and I myself ask “Is this horsepower really the right thing to do?” As long as the competition reacts “We do more horsepower”, let them do it, maybe there’s a time when somebody else will say “That’s ridiculous”, “just put the right horsepower into the car that fits to the car”. Full stop.
And in a way we already did this with the 1 Series M Coupe. With 360 horsepower, would it be a better car? No, I don’t think so. What’s appropriate is more important. And the competition thinks always to react with “more, more, more, faster, faster, faster”. And that is not what really counts. This 1M Coupe has almost the same horsepower like a 911 Carrera, that’s fine enough. It’s perfect. I would not dare to look for 360 hp. It’s not necessary. So I guess our obligation is to change some trends. And you will see we will do one other thing that will surprise the competition.
BMWBLOG: The 1M was considered to be a special project. Are there any other special projects, emotional, M-pure, that we might see? One that comes to mind is E92 M3 CSL, from an enthusiast point of view. Or E46. Is there as business case for one of these projects?
Dr. Kay Segler We are currently looking into something called “bespoke idea”, where we feature maybe a material technology. I cannot tell you more; let’s see where we end with it. In case this gets interesting, we might see this particular car within the next 12 months. Not to make a business case here, but just to tell that you can do some new things with materials. I know it’s unclear, but just to give you the direction: it’s the hint that we see the obligation for us to promote something, and then I’m sure everybody will look at it and maybe if we’ll see this in another car in the future, that’s fine.
BMWBLOG: It’s not just with M cars, but in general, with every generation that comes out there is a concern that the car grows in weight, in dimensions. Is this something that we’ll continue to see in the future?
Dr. Kay Segler Yes, you’re correct. There were some of the competitors’ cars, where whatever horsepower you put into a car, you don’t get the result you want to get. Putting 1,000 horsepower in an elephant doesn’t give you the feeling you want to have. You would prefer to have 1 horsepower into a horse, and feel better.
So the weight discussion is definitely a discussion that we also focus on. It’s very difficult, everybody knows that for instance you can cut two cylinders but you add a turbo, so it’s a dilemma. Then you have all the new safety regulations, where there’s pedestrian safety, airbags adding weight, etc. So basically all the regulations are adding weight faster than you can reduce the weight. But the direction is clear – we have to achieve performance through weight reduction.
BMWBLOG: So we’ll probably see more carbon fiber being used in the cars.
Dr. Kay Segler Yes. And to support your statement, BMW was the leader in carbon fiber. Now with all the new cars and our another sub-brand BMW i and other projects, we’ll include carbon fiber with our SGL joint-venture. It’s us leading the technology move at the moment. And you can expect that we use each and every part of the technology also in M cars. In some cases we might even be able to utilize some other carbon fiber technology, because our customers can afford it, in a way. It might be more expensive or too expensive, but in expensive cars you can test it into a kind of a prototype.
BMWBLOG: To lead you into a question about the X6 M, are there any limits to M cars?
Dr. Kay Segler Why set any limits?
BMWBLOG: Because with the X5 M and X6 M there was a limit that was clearly crossed, and that was before you came on board.
Dr. Kay Segler Why not to cross a limit? What’s the problem with it?
BMWBLOG: Well, you’re losing that M-pure, right?
Dr. Kay Segler When you’re driving the X6 M, it’s two or three or four different vehicles for several purposes. Are you crossing a line as a Formula 1 driver when you drive home from your F1 racetrack with your motorbike? No!
BMWBLOG: So can you describe the X6 M driver, then? Because it’s clearly different from the M3 driver.
Dr. Kay Segler First of all, currently I’m still driving a X6 M. The fascinating thing is that the road holding of this car is unbelievable, and that makes the difference much more than torque or engine concept or whatever. You have the feedback which you cannot have in any other vehicle I know, of that size and form. And if you want to go skiing, for instance, with a family of four, everything fits in, it’s fine – but I don’t want to use any other car, I want to use a M car.
BMWBLOG: We also see a difference between the X5M driver and the X6 M driver
Dr. Kay Segler Yes, some say you need to be a little bit bolder to drive such a car. We are selling more X6s than X5s, in the M Division.
BMWBLOG: Without getting into specifics about the new M5, how would you describe the new car? What’s the message it’s going to send when it comes out next month at Shanghai Auto Show?
Dr. Kay Segler Strong, bold, M5. It’s a business car with a pushover button, that changes it into a sports car. So you only need one garage instead of two. It’s a good offer.
That’s a typical car and I’m delighted when I see some interviews of others saying they want to do other cars which are more for day-to-day use. Our customers – we know exactly that they want to use the car from Monday to Sunday, not as weekend cars. Our cars need to be driven, our customers want to drive them, and that’s a perfect car – you can use it as a business car as well as a sports car.
BMWBLOG: Final question: what is the most important sensation stimulated by driving a M car? Is it tactile, sound, smell, sight, driving experience?
Dr. Kay Segler Cannot answer this one. It’s a total experience. I think that what sets us apart is that with M cars, you’re one with the car. You’re not riding a car; you’re one with the car. With all the sensations included.
Dr. Segler, Thank you for your time!