Currently reading: BMW: 'Ready for front drive'
BMW CEO and board chairman Norbert Reithofer talks FWD; plus Mini optimism

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.

1-series owners 'think it's FWD'

"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.

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brakedust 25 March 2010

Re: BMW 'we're ready for front drive'

For years, BMW has been telling us that RWD, 50:50 weight balance and naturally aspirated engines are all fundamental ingredients of driving pleasure. They've spent billions (not millions) burning this message into our consciousness. In a quest for greater economy and improved packaging, naturally aspirated engines and an even weight distribution have long-since bitten the dust. And, now rear-wheel drive is being abandoned. So, my simple question is this: What makes BMWs unique now? Should its advertising say its cars are no longer enjoyable to drive? Or that driving pleasure is no longer relevant to car ownership? Or should it admit that FWD cars can deliver equal thrills? Was BMW lying when it insisted that its many virtues made its cars better than the competition? What does BMW believe in now? I'd like to know. They still charge a premium for their cars - quite a significant one. So I'd like them to give me a worthwhile reason to buy one. I tend to agree with BMW: RWD, naturally aspirated engines and 50:50 weight balance do make cars more enjoyable to drive, so I think they should have used a different brand to market front-wheel drive cars; (they may not own Rover, but still have Triumph and other old UK brands in their portfolio). By simply jumping on the FWD bandwagon, they're saying that their brand doesn't matter. Well, for a long time it did, certainly to former BMW owners like me. I can't see brands like Apple or Coca-Cola or Cadbury's abandoning their tangible values so easily. In short, it makes me wonder what on earth is going on in Munich. After Chris Bangle left, i thought things could only get better. I was wrong.

Flash Harry 24 March 2010

Re: BMW 'we're ready for front drive'

this story is running on too long at this stage!!!as i posted last week its not a big issue as the 3 series upwards will retain RWD.if the new 1 series is more practical because its FWD and drives like a BMW bring it on!!!

Challenger440 24 March 2010

Re: BMW 'we're ready for front drive'

Vorsprung Durch Technik, asd they say in Ingolstadt...