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by James Ward

We will likely see more BMW M Performance models before we do ‘true’ BMW M models, the company says.

CarAdvice spoke with a number of M Division executives, including Peter Quintus, Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing, in Australia for the Festival of M promotion and to meet with the local BMW team.

Talking up the virtues of the M division’s work, Quintus said: “An M Car is a no compromise car. Precision, agility, performance… on the race track. An M Car is fully race track capable.”

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Australian buyers know this only too well, as our market has the highest ratio of M Cars to ‘normal’ BMW vehicle sales in the world. Some 5.2 per cent, and this doesn’t include the M Performance range.

“M Performance is the top-end sporting car from BMW, but not for the track.”

“Buyers want comfort and daily use, but also the individual look and sporty sound,” said Quintus.

M Performance, which includes models like the X5 M50d and new M240i coupe, help drive the success of the M division portfolio, without requiring the significant level of development investment required to produce a new standalone M Car variant.

“M Philosophy does not apply to all cars”, said Quintus. “We think very wisely about where to put it (M Cars).”

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Developing an M Car is not just a matter of some engine tuning and wider wheels – approximately 80 per cent of the M4 coupe is changed over a regular 4 Series.

And with just ten ‘proper’ M Cars in the range, there is no plan to follow the likes of Mercedes-AMG and produce a specific ‘M’ variant of every car.

This is where M Performance comes into play.

And while it makes sense to us, the brand needs to work on how this is communicated to buyers. Standalone M Car sales are growing faster than the ‘lesser’ M Performance models.

“There is still some confusion from buyers about where M Performance cars are in the range,” Quintus noted. “We need to do more about it.”

Developing M Performance models, then, around the popular X3 and X4 SUV ranges is a way of growing the brand’s portfolio and awareness – and profit – without enormous overhead.

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More M-branded SUVs “makes perfect sense and we are looking into that,” said BMW Australia Managing Director Marc-Heinrich Werner. “It is part of our M Car strategy going forward.”

“We are looking to what further opportunities exist within our product range and ways to exploit that growing demand.”

Spy photographers have captured the next generation X3 SUV testing, and it is widely expected that it will spawn a long-awaited performance variant to tackle the new Mercedes-AMG GLC43 models in market. Whether this will be a ‘true’ X3M or a higher output M Performance variant remains to be seen.

An X4 M40i is available in other markets, and would be a logical starting point for a performance oriented version of the new generation of medium SUV.

Whatever the case, Australia as a market is key to the future growth of M and M Performance models, and we look forward to seeing what BMW next has in store.

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