BMW will abandon decades of tradition and launch its first front-wheel-drive hatchbacks in 2013 as new entry-level models to its range.
The new cars will be based on the next-generation Mini platform and be positioned below the 1-series, which will continue in production as a rear-drive family of hatches and saloons.
Surprisingly, the new front-drive hatches are also tipped to carry 1-series badges, giving buyers the choice of BMW’s entry level with either front or rear-wheel drive.
Despite carrying the same badges, the two families of models will be distinguished by unique sheetmetal and price positioning; the rear-drive car will be pitched higher in price and quality than its front-drive stablemate.
Despite the clear overlap with the Mini, BMW is not concerned that its own front-wheel drive models will cannibalise sales of the third generation of the British car, due in 2014.
“Both brands possess a clear and individual image,” a BMW insider told Autocar, pointing to the sales success Volkswagen and Audi have achieved with both the Golf and A3. “Our research shows BMW and Mini appeal to different buyers.”
Just as VW and Audi appeal to different audiences, BMW will aim its front-drive and rear-drive 1-series at different buyers.
The front-drive model will be designed to attract new customers to the brand. The BMW source said, “We want a car that will appeal to non-BMW buyers with a focus on roominess and interior flexibility, yet like our existing entry-level model it will be fun to drive and cheap to run.”