BMW CEO and board chairman Norbert Reithofer talks FWD; plus Mini optimism
24 March 2010

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.

Twitter - follow autocar.co.ukSee all the latest BMW reviews, news and videoSee all the latest Mini reviews, news and video

Our Verdict

BMW 1 Series

A final facelift for the rear-wheel drive BMW 1 Series, as it aims to take class honours from the formidable Audi A3 and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Join the debate

Comments
21

24 March 2010

Lets put this into perspective.

When Lotus built a front-drive car , it was a shock.We got over it.Autocar liked it.

When BMW builds front-drive cars it's just common sense.Making small cars with engine at one end and transmission at the other is not very sensible.( unless you want to offer a twin-turbo straight-six version)

24 March 2010

[quote Uncle Mellow]

Lets put this into perspective.

When Lotus built a front-drive car , it was a shock.We got over it.Autocar liked it.

When BMW builds front-drive cars it's just common sense.Making small cars with engine at one end and transmission at the other is not very sensible.( unless you want to offer a twin-turbo straight-six version)

[/quote]
Yes, I agree. Just like everybody else, BMW needs smaller cars in its range for a whole number of reasons, and keeping them RWD just doesn't make sense.

Although I'm not particularly a fan of BMWs, I can see plenty of reasons for buying one that are unaffected by whether a particular model is FWD or RWD.

24 March 2010

BMW as a Group need a small FWD car, but it should not be branded BMW. They already have the MINI brand. If BMW want another FWD brand they should create a new one.

BMW owners may not care if their car is FWD or RWD, but they do care about the perceived status of BMW as a badge, and the RWD heritage is a major contributor to that.

24 March 2010

[quote Loconinja]They already have the MINI brand.[/quote]

MAXI?

[quote Loconinja]

BMW owners may not care if their car is FWD or RWD, but they do care about the perceived status of BMW as a badge, and the RWD heritage is a major contributor to that.

[/quote] It seems that way

24 March 2010

I'm actually put off buying any small current BMW by its rear drive configuration that brings with it excess cost and weight and poor packaging. A small front drive BMW should be fantastic. Bring it on!

24 March 2010

One in every five BMWs sold is now 4WD, the 'RWD heritage' having been heaved out the window more than a decade ago with the launch of the X5.

Why the obsessives here continue to think the introduction of another non-RWD drive layout will make any difference whatsoever to the brand is beyond me. It won't.

24 March 2010

There are more positives than negatives with front wheel drive cars.

Front wheel drive cars tend to have

More room in the back as no drive shaft intruding through the floor.

Much better traction in snow.

Safer to handle by novice drivers no dangerous oversteer.

Cheaper to produce.

Unless you are putting down a lot of power through the wheels front or 4 wheel drive is enough.

24 March 2010

I don't see it damaging the brand at all - I think all of the brand values went out of the window with the success of the E46 - as soon as they were outselling Mondeos, the exclusivity and aspirational values of the past were eroded.

BMW as a comapny need to diverisfy and grow etc (although they now have far too many models in the range - but so do all of the german companies) and they will probably succeed - those who buy the lower end models (118 etc) probably don't car about FWD / RWD - they just want a BM on the drive.

Also, I think a large number of the 118d's / 318d's on the road are lease cars anyhow, with dynamics being the least important thing - most company car drivers choose a car based on CO2 and tax.

If they can make the FWD as good as the MINI, I don't see any issues. As said before, it will bring about a lot of benefits (reduced cost, more room etc).

24 March 2010

If the next 1-series is going to be RWD, I very much doubt BMW will release another vehicle in the same sector under the same brand but FWD. MINI branded maybe, but there won't be a 1-series sized FWD BMW.

24 March 2010

[quote Tabby]Tabby wrote the following post at Mar 24, 2010 11:59 AM:

There are more positives than negatives with front wheel drive cars.

Front wheel drive cars tend to have

More room in the back as no drive shaft intruding through the floor.

Much better traction in snow.

Safer to handle by novice drivers no dangerous oversteer.

Cheaper to produce.

Unless you are putting down a lot of power through the wheels front or 4 wheel drive is enough.

[/quote]

Generally speaking i'm in agreement with what you say and for small cars like the 1 series and below, FWD makes more sense. There is more to it than this though so here are my thoughts.

If 4WD and FWD are to be accomodated on the same platform, surely the transmission hump will remain and negate most of the FWD packaging benefit? In addition to this, most FWD cars still have a 'transmission hump' due to the benefits in torsional rigidity and the fact that the space is largely redundant.

Traction in snow, yes front wheel drive does help here although most modern FWD cars are pretty pathetic too on account of their wide tyres amongst other reasons. I'll accept that modern RWD cars are the most disadvantaged so, fair point.

I agree on the point of FWD generally being more forgiving and predictable to the novice driver. Not really BMW's target market to be fair though.

Cheaper to produce is not as clear cut as it may seem at first (but dinner time has finished and i've run out of time to type what I wanted!)

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK
  • Volvo V90
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The Volvo V90 is a big estate ploughing its own furrow. We’re about to see if it is refreshing or misguided
  • Kia Stonic
    First Drive
    18 October 2017
    Handsome entrant into the bulging small crossover market has a strong engine and agile handling, but isn’t as comfortable or complete as rivals