The BMW brand is strong enough for the company to branch out into building front-wheel drive cars, BMW CEO and board chairman Norbert Reithofer has told Autocar.
Speaking exclusively to Autocar at a London event, Reithofer also outlined the company’s medium term product strategy and clarified his surprise remarks about 1-series owners.
"It is true about 80 percent of the 1-series owners we surveyed either thought their car was front wheel drive or that they didn’t know the layout. But these were the drivers of the three and five-door hatchback models.
"However, nearly all the owners of 1-series coupe models knew their car was rear-wheel drive. These buyers appreciate the driving dynamics of rear-drive. But for other owners they bought the 1-series because of the engineering and the quality and engine performance and so on.
"This research has helped us to be confident that BMW can build front-drive cars in a new market segment. But the next 1-series, when it is launched in 18 months or so, will be rear-wheel drive, as will all the future varients."
Reithofer also enthused about the future of Mini.
"Do you not think it is time to turn Mini into a proper brand?" he said. "I think it is time, so we will also be expanding the Mini range over the next five years. I have seen the future [Mini] concepts and they are fantastic."
However, Reithofer confirmed to Autocar that although the planned new front-drive platform will be used to build cars measuring between 3.8m and a Golf-sized 4.3m, future Mini models would probably not break the 4m-long barrier.