BMW M GmbH has slowly been moving into worlds we never thought it would inhabit. First it went turbocharged, then it went all-wheel drive. Now, it's moving into the realm of electric power.
Given emissions regulations are tightening, it shouldn't come as a surprise to hear internal combustion power alone won't carry M, one of the best-known badges in the enthusiast world, forward.
Markus Flasch is the fresh head of M GmbH, having last October succeeded Frank van Meel in the role. Where van Meel will be remembered as the man responsible for bringing all-wheel drive to M, the new boss expects to be responsible for introducing hybrid power.
"For me, everything that brings competitiveness and performance to a car is relevant for M" he said, speaking with Australian media on a phone hookup from Munich.
"There is no dogma in how we equip our cars. So, as soon as one of those technologies qualifies for proper M specification we will make them available."
What that hybrid power will look like isn't quite clear at this point. M GmbH is investigating plug-in hybrid, mild-hybrid and pure-electric powertrains at the moment, and could offer multiple electrified options in parallel.
Although he wouldn't confirm when we'll see the first electrified M car, the boss said it's "not too far in the distance", later suggesting the rollout of e-power will be gradual.
"We won't see a switch black-and-white. There won't be one point in time where combustion engines disappear and hybrids replace them, and then another where battery-electric vehicles replaces hybrid," Flasch explained.
"What we might see depending on the market, depending on segment, we might see different technologies in parallel."
Don't expect to see multiple powertrain options on the same platform. Although "technically it's possible" thanks to BMW's architecture, the small volumes with which M has to play mean it's unlikely to make business sense.
In other words, there won't be an M3 ICE and an M3 PHEV sitting side-by-side in showrooms.
The electrified parts won't be off-the-shelf BMW. They'll be developed by engineers from M GmbH, but it's not clear whether the first electrified M powertrain will be fitted to a car built on an existing model line (as currently happens) or whether it'll be fitted to an exclusive M car.
Last time M created a standalone model, we got the legendary M1.
What that would look like is a mystery, given it hasn't been confirmed. But the possibilities are essentially endless when electric power is involved, as brands like Nio have already proven. Flasch is clearly excited by the prospect of having complete control over where a car's torque is going, when it's going there and how much is available.
"When we talk about electric vehicles, this offers a huge opportunity for us. If you think about current systems, you pretty much control the engine output over braking, or brake systems. You destroy energy with it," he explained.
"On an electric car, think about four independent engines. You can do this type of control on the power side, not on the braking side. This is where we think we will make a difference when it comes to electric power. This is where we are very strong, compared to the rest of BMW and also compared to the competition."
"As long as you get the exact right amount of torque to the wheel in the right situation... there is no certain number or limit of power. It's just about how you control it."