BMW believes the move to more front-wheel drive models will not negatively affect the brand’s overall sales or perception.
Having launched the front-wheel drive BMW 2 Series Active Tourer in November last year, BMW Australia will in time introduce the new X1, which will see its sDrive variants now driven via the front wheels, rather than the rear wheels, as is the case with the current model.
Even the all-wheel-drive xDrive models are engineered to favour the front wheels when additional grip is not required from the rear axle.
Nonetheless, BMW Australia believes the success and acceptance of the 2 Series Active Tourer shows that the brand does not have to be stuck in its historical bias towards rear-wheel-drive cars.
“We’ve seen that with the acceptance of the 2 Series Active Tourer, it actually has been really successful and done really well since we’ve introduced it in November last year.” BMW Australia’s director of corporate communications, Lenore Fletcher, told CarAdvice.
“It’s a different concept for BMW from the point of view of having front-wheel-drive and the point of view of design, but because of the space that is available inside and the interior performance, which is one of the best interiors that we have in the brand as well, we have had a lot of positive feedback around that so it has been really well accepted.”
Further to the car’s acceptance and sales success, BMW Australia has surveyed it own customers, as well as looked at more overall figures of Australian drivers in regards to front-wheel-drive versus rear-wheel-drive.
Above: the new 2016 BMW X1.
“We have looked at it and we have spoken through; it's anecdotal but it's also something we have looked at from the view point of surveying customers, and there are some figures that suggest that up to 85 percent of Australian drivers may not be conscious of which wheels are actually driving their cars," Fletcher said.
“BMW drivers are a different matter because obviously the brand has historically been rear-wheel-drive and only in the last 12 months has included front-wheel-drive in the segment.”
“I think it's progress. I think it’s going forward and I think no brand can stand still and I think that’s a really good demonstration that we are happy to move forward,” Fletcher said.
The move should come as no surprise, considering rival premium brand Mercedes-Benz has enjoyed enormous success with its small and medium sized front-wheel drive models in the last few years.