BMW Australia is continuing to forge ahead with its plan to offer a product to suit every driver, and the majority of its growth will involve its new front-wheel-drive UKL platform.
At the recent launch of the 2 Series Active Tourer, the German car maker revealed there are already 20 products planned to be introduced next year – joining approximately 25 new arrivals this year and 20 the year before.
BMW Australia head of product marketing and planning Shawn Ticehurst said there are big plans for 2015 and the UKL platform.
“We will definitely grow the product range there – in the UKL segment – that small car class. That’s where the majority of the growth will be,” he said.
We can expect at least 12 future models to be based on the modular platform that’s underpinned the third-generation Mini Cooper hatch that launched globally in 2013.
“Basically anything below a 3 Series will be based on it. It’s designed to be quite modular, we can produce components that we can then build to a top quality and share it across a few cars and that’s obviously good for the profitability of the company which is critical when you’re building smaller cars. Being able to do that well and do it profitably and not have to cut quality – those things start to show up.”
The revelation BMW was going to launch front-wheel-drive models was made years ago – but the 2 Series Active Tourer was the first to be launched and has a lot riding on it. Mr Ticehurst said the challenge was always going to be maintaining that unmistakable BMW driving feel.
“I think that’s our job to make sure that it does, things like the steering feel on the car, it’s for the driver that wants to feel connected to the road and wants to feel in charge of their drive that steering feel is critical. I think they’ve done that well on this car so I’m confident they can roll that out.”
Torque steer is a common problem with front-wheel drive, and he acknowledged it’s hard to completely cancel out and would have been a challenge for the car’s engineers.
“You can engineer it to a certain degree, what they’ve done with things like the the single-pinion set up at the front, they’ve put a lot of engineering effort into minimising it, but relevant to the sort of person that’s going to buy the car. You wouldn’t build this car for someone who was going to take it to a racetrack or blast it around a really tight-cornered road.
“Torque steer is a front-wheel-drive characteristic. They’ve engineered it to minimise that within the limits of what the typical buyer is going to expect and I think they’ve achieved that well.”
With the flood of new UKL-based small cars expected as well as more larger models on the cards he said the German car maker isn’t biting off more than it can chew, and isn’t concerned there may end up being too many options.
“I think we have a way to go before we hit that. It gives people choice and that’s a good thing.”
So will one of the choices be the M2 coupe?
“No word on that yet. I just hope we bring it and the signs are looking increasingly positive but nothing confirmed yet. But the enthusiast in me wants to see it here.”
How about the 1 Series sedan?
“Nothing’s confirmed on the 1 Series sedan-type concept yet. I think there’s been some spy shots around but nothing’s been confirmed.”
“We’d have to evaluate it and see. At the moment our focus will be 1 Series hatch, which is doing well, that’s grown nicely this year. 2 Series coupe, 2 Series convertible, 2 Series Active Tourer, X1, we have a lot going on in that segment and some good products so this one is our launch focus for now then in two months the convertible is coming.”
Questions have been raised over whether or not the 2 Series Active Tourer would be more at home under the 1 Series banner, but BMW is standing by its naming conventions.
“I think this car seems to logically fit to be a 2 Series. It’s a bit bigger than a 1 Series – it seems to be a logical fit in the progression that we call it the 2 Series. I’ve also heard them talk about the fact that things like 2, 4 and 6 Series are there for, in some ways alternative concepts, like coupes convertibles, Gran Coupes, Active Tourers. It’s an alternative to… let’s call it the traditional sedan, wagon, hatchback.”
Time will tell whether the Australian market embraces the new BMW front-wheel-drive experience.