BMW Concept Compact Sedan: What it means for BMW

1-series, 2 Series | November 20th, 2015 by 13
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Quite a lot of hype is floating around the internet about the world premier of BMW’s Concept Compact Sedan. This concept shows a future design for …

Quite a lot of hype is floating around the internet about the world premier of BMW’s Concept Compact Sedan. This concept shows a future design for BMW in the premium compact sedan segment, currently populated by the Mercedes-Benz CLA Class and the Audi A3. There’s much debate as to whether or not this will become a 1 Series sedan or possibly a 2 Series sedan or maybe even 2 Series Gran Coupe. We think it will eventually become a 2 Series sedan or Gran Coupe, as it has a somewhat rear-wheel drive styling to it, with the way the C-Pillar sits atop the rear wheels and how short the front overhang is. Though, this is still just a design concept, so things could change and it could end up being a 1 Series based on BMW’s new front-wheel drive UKL architecture. There are good arguments for both front and rear-wheel drive, however, and it will be important to BMW either way.

BMW will be entering into a new segment with this car, one dominated by Mercedes-Benz and Audi. This segment is one of the hotter selling segments in the automotive world, as it gains customers entry into luxury brands. It also brings people into dealerships with low advertised pricing and then slams them with optional extras. For example: the Mercedes-Benz claims that the CLA Class starts at $29,999, but good luck finding one for under $35,000 on a dealer lot. Audi does the same with the A3. It’s just the nature of the segment. And this brings in a ton of money for both of those brands.

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So BMW could enter this segment with either a 2 Series sedan or GC, or a 1 Series sedan. The main difference between the two would be the platform and drivetrain. A 2 Series sedan would be based on the 2 Series coupe and would be rear-wheel drive-based, with optional xDrive. A 1 Series sedan would likely be front-wheel drive on BMW’s UKL platform, with optional xDrive.

If BMW brings a 2 Series sedan to the segment, it will have a clear enthusiast advantage. Young enthusiasts first drooled over the idea of a Mercedes-Benz costing under $30,000 to start, when they first heard of the CLA. However, upon finding out that it would be front-wheel drive, most, if not all, enthusiasts lost interest. Same goes for the Audi A3, as the base model is front-wheel drive with the VW Jetta’s 1.8 liter turbo-four. So if BMW offers a cheap rear-wheel drive sedan in the same segment and price range, it would be the clear enthusiast’s choice and have a distinct performance advantage.

However, the problem with that line of thinking is that the majority of buyers in the segment are not enthusiasts. Unfortunately, 90 percent of buyers in that segment are middle class folks who want to get into a luxury brand and only care about the badge on the hood, not driven wheels. Nor can the majority of them tell the difference between rear or front-wheel drive. So It would probably make more business sense to make this a 1 Series sedan and front-wheel drive, as it’s more cost-effective and BMW would stand to make more profit in an already highly profitable segment. Plus, BMW already has the 2 Series coupe, that’s rear-wheel drive, which is pretty much in the same price range as the baby Merc and Audi. So that can be the enthusiast’s choice.

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Regardless of which it becomes, though, this car will be very important to BMW. The 2 Series coupe competes well in the segment now, but it doesn’t sell nearly as much as the Mercedes CLA or Audi A3. You’ll see ten of each of those aforementioned cars for every one 2 Series’ on the road. That’s because of the 2 Series’ coupe-like lack of practicality, versus the other two sedans. Admittedly, the 2 Series actually has better interior head than both and better rear legroom than the A3 and a bigger trunk than both, but people would still prefer to have two extra doors. Because of this, BMW is losing out, in terms of sales, to Mercedes and Audi in this segment and could seriously stand to profit from having a small, cheap sedan of its own, regardless of drivetrain, as most would be bought with xDrive anyway.

Us enthusiasts are hoping for a 2 Series sedan, as a small rear-wheel drive BMW sedan with a manual transmission is what we’ve been wanting since the departure of the E46 3 Series sedan. So just the idea of this Concept Compact Sedan is getting most of us giddy with excitement. And it should, as it will be quite excellent, regardless of front or rear-wheel drive. Having sampled BMW’s latest UKL architecture, I can tell you that it could very well be the most fun front-wheel drive platform. However, it does end up being a rear-wheel drive 2 Series sedan and is available with a manual transmission for a starting price of under $30,000, it might become the enthusiast’s favorite.

13 responses to “BMW Concept Compact Sedan: What it means for BMW”

  1. george.. says:

    its cool and beautiful .. i hope with rear wheel drive …

  2. Michael says:

    BMW Australia’s head of product and marketing as well as multiple BMW AG board members have said, explicitly, that this model isn’t coming to the states with one saying it was solely for the Chinese market.

    • Michael says:

      “of under $30,000”

      BMW USA CEO already said he isn’t bringing any sub-$30k vehicles over. I agree with his decision, smarter long-term strategy.

  3. T says:

    As it stands it is a car for China aimed primarily at China and is to be manufactured in China. However there are other markets that enjoy their compacts with a boot instead of a hatch so it is wide open at the moment on whether to introduce the car to other specific markets especially when it would be offered in three specifications (Although not all) sDrive,xDrive and eDrive which would be the choice for specific markets. The car is being tested to meet the demands of the global market should any decision be made. But I can see this car working in markets like India,Russia,Middle-East and of course North America outside of China.

    • Michael says:

      May I ask what the source of your assertions are? I’ve heard, from multiple BMW execs not speculation on behalf of journalists, that the decision has already been made, that this is a China-only model. Board members have already said it would hurt 3er sales which carries a higher profit margin.

      • dc says:

        Car and Driver say it is coming here. Since BMW are niche crazy, they should bring a fwd 1 sedan & rwd 2 GC over. Not only will it put them into new segments, it would be a positive counter to the chronic complaints about size & weight of the current range. When oil goes up it will also allow them to bring the 3 cyl. into their line without compromising the 3 series. If there’s going to be an X1 & X2, why not fill out the car line with something that more resembles what the market first loved about the brand, even if fwd?

        • Senne says:

          The thing is that cars like the 2 Series Active Tourer, X1 & X2 need to be practical. So the choice for FWD obvious. However a small BMW sedan should not be FWD as it ruins BMW’s DNA. It’s a great chance to make another fun, small BMW. It’s the ideal enthusiast BMW and entry level Bimmer for those who can’t afford a 3 Series.

          • dc says:

            Another reason to bring both to market. The 135i was appreciated on introduction for being the only rwd hot hatch, but criticized for space utilization, a fwd 1 sedan would address that & directly compete w./A3. A rwd 2GC could be more stylish & establish a whole new niche.

          • Senne says:

            I agree, both would be nice. But if they’ll make either a 1 Series Sedan OR either a 2 Series Gran Coupe, I really hope they’ll make the 2 GC! For exactly the reason you mentioned.

          • dc says:

            Just as Europe has 135 hatch & we have 235 coupe, perhaps there will be a (forgive me) a hybrid solution re the 4 door compact(s).

        • Michael says:

          Car and Driver has speculated that, however, I certainly wouldn’t take their word over that of executives from the company itself. As Mercedes is exploiting its brand, advertising that you can drive a GLA for less than the average sale price of a new car, BMW is preserving brand equity. That means BMW doesn’t risk people buying a cheaper and lower profit margin model instead of a higher profit margin model like the 3, but it can do that and still outsell the competition. In terms of long term strategy, it’s far more prudent. When Apple introduced the iPad Mini it cannibalized sales for iPad and Apple made less money on every Mini sold as compared with every iPad they sold. Why seek that outcome and diminish the BMW brand in the process? BMW’s decision to keep this model out of the states is the right choice.

          • dc says:

            I don’t hang with BMW execs., did they announce fwd1 sedan or rwd 2 GC 2 u? By all the fwd hatchbacks I see running around, I would say Mercedes have diluted rather than exploited their brand, certainly the small Audis so resemble their larger brethren they look like cannibalization. C&D report as fact the compact will arrive as a 2017 & why not? The 3 is morphing into full size (as Honda did successfully with the Accord), why shouldn’t BMW bring the compact here, a return to its e30 size foundations? Sold as niche vehicles, they wouldn’t have to compete on price (Minis don’t) & they would return sales volume in a competitive growing segment they have abandoned. It would consolidate the 3 & 4s’ move upmarket (buh bye 320i!) and actually strengthen the brand by resuming their place in the segment of the market where their greatness began. Apple seem to be scraping by, & yr apples & oranges comparison (Apples & BMWs?) is wrong, instead compare BMW to GM in its glory days due to Durant’s cradle to the grave marketing, BMW is losing potential demographic both to new, younger buyers & downsizing boomers. NOT good for the long-term!

  4. Senne says:

    I really, really hope it’ll be RWD 2 Series Gran Coupe. Even the name is sexier than “1 Series Sedan”. RWD would make this very beautiful, small Bimmer a bit of a spiritual successor for the E46 Sedan. Just like the M2 is of the E46 M3 ! :D

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