With the introduction of the ‘i’ brand and the iconic M division, BMW now has the complete circle of fuel efficiency and future-ready vehicles as well as racing pedigree and sports cars.
Nonetheless, when it came to launching a unique sports car that didn’t share its underpinning with a 'Series' car, BMW chose its ‘i’ division to launch the BMW i8, instead of M division for a potential M1 replacement.
Speaking with CarAdvice at the launch of the BMW M3 and M4 in Portugal this week, the head of BMW’s M division, Friedrich Nitschke, said there’s no doubt that BMW M has the knowledge to create an M1 replacement and that the technology from the i8 can be brought across to M.
“[It’s] a question of capacity not a question of know-how,” Nitschke said in regards to a potential M1.
Asked if BMW M has the means to make a supercar to challenge the likes of Audi R8 and Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG (and its replacement, the AMG GT), Nitschke said: “[In the past] we made this with the M1, and now we have an i8 and for me now, M is the next aspirant to do this, but we haven’t made any decision yet.
“I think ‘i’ and ‘M’ are the bookends of BMW, we show with M what we can do on the racetrack and then with ‘i’ we show a big step to the future what we can do reducing fuel consumption and bringing new concepts. We have all the technology in BMW and we can use this technology from ‘i’ and that’s a big advantage BMW has at the moment.”
Although developed separately from the M team, the BMW i8 has given the German company a significantly better understanding of producing lightweight sports cars, a noteworthy skill for a potential M1.
“With the i8 we showed what is going on and what we can do and it’s absolutely a new step and a step to the future and maybe we can take some parts and technology from ‘i’ [for M division] and vice-versa.”
The original BMW M1 (picture above in the middle), produced from 1978 to 1981, was powered by a 204kW 3.5-litre six-cylinder engine and remains the only mid-engined BMW to be mass-produced, with 456 examples made. It was the first car in the M range and launched the M division as we know it today.
In 2008, BMW unveiled the BMW M1 Homage 30th anniversary concept, which as we can see today, served as a design inspiration for the i8.
BMW stayed clear of using the M1 badge when it launched the previous-generation BMW 1 Series M, which may be a good sign as the iconic badge is potentially reserved for an upcoming model.
According to Nitschke, any future plans for a new M1 depend on the BMW board, with the M division ready and willing to make a supercar.