Reconfirmed: BMW developing FWD, four-cylinder small car line for sale in U.S.

by Tim Jones on October 4, 2010, 4:31 pm
  tags:
bmw news bmw fwd  
Autoblog is confirming BMW enthusiasts worst fears about brand dilution at BMW. If you haven't already check out this other story, Is BMW Getting Too Big



BMW seems to think American buyers are ready to sink their teeth into small luxury vehicles. The automaker has reconfirmed plans to unleash a wave of small, front-wheel drive creations positioned below the 1 Series and due to go on sale in the U.S. market. The vehicles will be sold under a new class called UKL, and there are supposedly several different body styles just waiting to pounce on unsuspecting North American buyers. The news came via Ian Robertson, a BMW board member for sales and marketing, who also said that the full line will pack a four-cylinder engine when the cars debut before 2013.

BMW is looking to move around 100,000 units of its new UKL series vehicles worldwide, though the company hasn't said exactly how it expects that figure to be broken up by market. Automotive News reports that while the company has also been tight lipped about exactly how many different vehicle types will fall under the new front-wheel drive, four-cylinder philosophy, other reports have pointed to a total of four body styles at launch.



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34 responses to Reconfirmed: BMW developing FWD, four-cylinder small car line for sale in U.S.

pilotman commented:
October 4, 2010, 4:44 pm

Would you buy one?

Interesting times....I'll stick to my in-line 6 with RWD, thank you very much.

****************************

Reconfirmed: BMW developing FWD, four-cylinder small car line for sale in U.S.
by tim330i on October 4, 2010, 4:31 pm
Autoblog is confirming BMW enthusiasts worst fears about brand dilution at BMW. If you haven't already check out this other story, Is BMW Getting Too Big


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

BMW seems to think American buyers are ready to sink their teeth into small luxury vehicles. The automaker has reconfirmed plans to unleash a wave of small, front-wheel drive creations positioned below the 1 Series and due to go on sale in the U.S. market. The vehicles will be sold under a new class called UKL, and there are supposedly several different body styles just waiting to pounce on unsuspecting North American buyers. The news came via Ian Robertson, a BMW board member for sales and marketing, who also said that the full line will pack a four-cylinder engine when the cars debut before 2013.

BMW is looking to move around 100,000 units of its new UKL series vehicles worldwide, though the company hasn't said exactly how it expects that figure to be broken up by market. Automotive News reports that while the company has also been tight lipped about exactly how many different vehicle types will fall under the new front-wheel drive, four-cylinder philosophy, other reports have pointed to a total of four body styles at launch.
Andrew*Debbie commented:
October 4, 2010, 5:15 pm

UKL? Could that stand for UK Long, Large or even (gasp) Longbridge?

I'd guess at least the engines would come from BMW Hams Hall. Sharing a platform with a next generation MINI is obvious. BMW also owns a plant in the UK that is tooled to stamp out sheet metal for smaller cars. But would BMW build the entire car in England?
cwinter commented:
October 4, 2010, 5:23 pm

I guess one could point at Porsche for brand dilution and say it seems to work out for them. When the Cayman debuted everyone seemed to hackle Porsche claiming it's a Boxster with a hardtop, so why not call it that. The Cayman has done very well for them and is a wonderful car. The the Cayenne came out, people cried foul how Porsche could go to building SUVs of all things. The Cayenne is a best seller in the US for Porsche and helps carry the brand financially.

I guess as long as these cars show enough independence from the bread and butter for BMW (the 3er) and help finance its future efforts I am cool with it. Brand dilution is what you make of it. The fact is that the competition forces BMWs hand in one way or another. Infiniti's push into their highest volume segments (with the G taking on the 3 and the M the 5) has surely hurt them. Audi's campaign to come after them has been successful and in turn, BMW must look for other ways to stay profitable. It's logical then to push into segments that have high volume, may share some of the older technology from previous platforms, and hopefully help finance the remaining projects to stay competitive.

Perhaps I am just an optimist but someone's gonna dig up those commercials BMW had with the rear-wheel drive emphasis making fun of the old bicycles with the large front wheels. Someone's gonna take advantage of that and mock them once they have a FWD vehicle on the road.
AzNMpower32 commented:
October 4, 2010, 6:09 pm

It's all about mass-market appeal thesedays. Car companies are realising that in order to stay competitive and profitable, it's important to cater to as big a market as possible. Niche markets no longer matter. The sales numbers do the talking, not forums or brand loyalists.

Remember when the god-ugly, E65 7er came out in 2002? Everyone cried foul and the automotive world was ablaze with criticism at BMW. Yet the E65 outsold previous models and sales numbers were at record levels.
sno_duc commented:
October 4, 2010, 7:21 pm

Look at what Ford is doing with german designed small front wheel drive cars. and the glowing press, they're earning
VW NA does everything it can to drive customers away (ever dealt with a VW service??? dept?) and the loyalist keep coming back.
Done correctly BMW can keep those who worship six cylinders and steal a few from VW, Audi, and Ford.
No one confuses a Corvette with an Aveo, both built by GM, different buyers.
rednatasha commented:
October 4, 2010, 8:06 pm

Honestly, i think people just like to bit** these days about anything...I’d rather have BMW build FWD cars and see the company 100 years down the road doing well and alive than have it stick to a single minded company and have to close its doors in the next 50 years because they did not learn how to adapt to the times. Survival of the fittest is the best way to describe any automotive company now in days.

Seriously....is it going to hurt you if BMW makes a FWD car? Or are you just mad because the common people will be able to afford BMW's now? Move your stupid ego out the way and let anyone that wants a BMW to have one.....even if it’s a FWD aversion...it’s still a BMW.

Adapt and survive...otherwise, say goodbye to BMW...think before you complain people. Personally, I’d rather see BMW stick to RWD vehicles. Id complain myself if they announced that they would no longer make RWD vehicles…then….id call it war.

-Robert
GiaGiaJa commented:
October 4, 2010, 8:21 pm

I wonder about price... Anyone ?
dalekressin commented:
October 4, 2010, 8:43 pm

I'd probably buy one.
bayoucity commented:
October 4, 2010, 9:42 pm

The problem is most buyers don't know the difference between FWD & RWD. Majority will buy it because of the roundel. It is sad.
ProRail commented:
October 4, 2010, 9:49 pm

I trust BMW implicitly. They have excellent instincts. Whatever they do is fine with me.
Andrew*Debbie commented:
October 5, 2010, 6:01 am

Quote:
Originally Posted by rednatasha View Post

Seriously....is it going to hurt you if BMW makes a FWD car?
They already do. It just doesn't have a roundel on the hood.

A BMW branded car on a platform shared with MINI will almost certainly cheapen the brand in America. Hopefully BMW won't repeat the 318ti mistake.



Time to make a serious guess about the acronym. How about

UKL -

Unified-Klasse Langsam
Unschöne Klasse lockerer
pilotman commented:
October 5, 2010, 9:13 am

I think its very amusing how quickly people change their tunes.

Most on here would say, FWD sucks, I'd never buy one. But if you slap a roundel on it, they'll suddenly buy one, and its ok.

Everyone has bashed Audi for years, saying you can never get a FWD car to handle as well as a RWD, and Audi sucks and is stupid for sticking with FWD/quattro.

I don't really see a point to a FWD BMW car...I don't care how good/smart BMW thinks it is, it can't engineer a FWD platform to handle like a RWD platform.

So....BMW's FWD cars will handle the same as, gasp, something like a sporty GTI, Honda Civic, etc. etc.

What's the point of buying a BMW....then?

It won't be a handling advantage

It will have to be something else...and at the price point of a small, 4 cylinder car, it surely won't be a pricing advantage over the Japanese....(it will be more expensive)

And you can bet dollars to donuts it won't be more reliable...

The only real reason I could see is to satisfy badge whores who can't afford higher end BMWs....I'm sure BMW could put together a pretty compelling 4 cylinder FWD car, but again, it will be just that, something like a GTI.

I personally don't care, as I'll drive just about anything...I just happen to like some of BMWs products but I'm not a fan boy....but I think it dilutes the brand.

BMW all but dropped the the Ultimate Driving Machine ads, they have softened almost all of their cars (i.e. new 5 series), keep building heavier, plusher cars, they are clearly focused on luxury and sales over performance.

At least give me this, please NO MORE AUDI bashing, because that would be the ultimate in irony....
6 Brit commented:
October 5, 2010, 10:42 am

I am all for a 4-banger but FWD is boooooring

I am interested to see how they market this...

I will check them out but likely would not buy one...who wants an overweight four cylinder with FWD? ick
cwinter commented:
October 5, 2010, 12:24 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by 6 Brit View Post
I am all for a 4-banger but FWD is boooooring

I am interested to see how they market this...

I will check them out but likely would not buy one...who wants an overweight four cylinder with FWD? ick
Is the Mini Cooper S a boring car to drive?
BavarianBlue commented:
October 5, 2010, 1:05 pm

What does it matter if they expand a bit? They'll still have their other markets...

I was told that by 2016, all consumer vehicles need to be capable of 35MPG or better. Everyone has to start somewhere.
6 Brit commented:
October 5, 2010, 1:22 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by cwinter View Post
Is the Mini Cooper S a boring car to drive?
to me...yes - not nearly as fun as it would be if it was rwd
cwinter commented:
October 5, 2010, 2:03 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by 6 Brit View Post
to me...yes - not nearly as fun as it would be if it was rwd
Don't I recall reading about your adventures in a Mini S and how much fun it was spanking the car around? Don't make me do a search!
6 Brit commented:
October 5, 2010, 3:50 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by cwinter View Post
Don't I recall reading about your adventures in a Mini S and how much fun it was spanking the car around? Don't make me do a search!
I had an na cooper

it is "ok" but would be more fun rwd - understeer is a bitch
timfitz63 commented:
October 6, 2010, 11:46 am

Well, I thought that's what a MINI was: a small, front-wheel drive "baby" BMW, positioned below the 1 Series...? Oh, and yes: it's also packing a four-cylinder engine... Between all the models (Hardtop, Convertible, Clubman, and Countryman) and trim levels (base, S, JCW), there are already a dozen different MINI's out there available for purchase right now.

And I thought the 1 Series was intended as the entry-level BMW...? So, what is BMW up to here...? Are they just planning to sell a re-badged, possibly re-skinned, upscale MINI to the over-50 crowd, to whom the "quirky" marketing aspects of the MINI are less endearing...? If so, does anyone at BMW happen to remember the "Cadillac Cimmeron:" a glorified Chevy Cavalier that was a dismal sales failure for GM back in the early 80's...? Yeah, I know; the Cimmeron had other issues too... But still...

And if these vehicles are not re-badged MINI's, then why is BMW developing an entirely new vehicle (or series of vehicles) to essentially compete with themselves...?

I guess I just don't get this one...
99328ic commented:
October 6, 2010, 11:55 am

To most buyers of BMW I think maybe 3/4 just want it to have AWD/X-drive. I then think maybe half of that 1/4 left would not know if the car is front or rear wheel drive. Face it FWD cars are cheaper to make and in order to make a car that is at a lower price point something will have to change.
Elias commented:
October 6, 2010, 3:51 pm

There's a market for fwd 4 bangers if BMW can capture a percentage of that market why not go for it. You have to give the buyers what they want, if you want to stay a float these days.
If BMW stops building rwd cars then I'm done but if they are just expanding their customer base that's fine with me.
Coconutpete commented:
October 8, 2010, 11:06 am

I wouldn't buy one.... torque steer is a bee-atch.

I'm sure it will sell well though - sadly if you stop 100 BMW drivers and ask them "Is your car front wheel drive or rear wheel drive"? 75% of them probably won't know.
Michael Schott commented:
October 8, 2010, 11:42 am

It's all about meeting future fuel economy standards. When you have M cars and 7 series getting under 20 mpg you must have a counterpoint getting over 30 mpg to meet the newer regulated standards.

Personally it doesn't bother me at all as long as future 3 series models are still great RWD sport sedans.

Also, regarding badge whores, 95% of all current BMW owners buy the cars for the name and prestige.
cwinter commented:
October 8, 2010, 12:01 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by Coconutpete View Post
I wouldn't buy one.... torque steer is a bee-atch.

I'm sure it will sell well though - sadly if you stop 100 BMW drivers and ask them "Is your car front wheel drive or rear wheel drive"? 75% of them probably won't know.
I doubt they would make a high-torque FWD car. They are looking at 4 cyl vehicles with FWD, which is a reasonable setup used on many many cars. I have driven 4 cyl FWD cars in Europe all the time and they are well performing economy cars.

I can't imagine we'll have 300 hp FWD in our future...
S93D commented:
October 8, 2010, 9:06 pm

This could be a great move by BMW!

The 3 series is getting bigger and bigger.

What BMW needs is a 3 and 5 door hatchback, something along the lines of a 80's Porsche 944 or Volvo C30. Then also have a 5 door version. Since it would be smaller than a 3 series, put a 1.8 or 2.0 or 2.3 litre 16 valve turbo in it. If 2.3, then that would be good for 260 hp.

There's nothing sacred about a 6 cylinder.

If BMW really had money, they could have FWD, RWD, and AWD versions. Don't laugh, the Rover 75 came in FWD or RWD versions! The FWD version could be for Chicago (optional RWD) and the RWD version for Los Angeles.
BsmithNP commented:
October 8, 2010, 9:14 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by S93D View Post
What BMW needs is a 3 and 5 door hatchback, something along the lines of a 80's Porsche 944 or Volvo C30. Then also have a 5 door version.
They did at one point but I believe the US market just wasn't as supportive of either of these models. We live about 20 minutes from the Mexico/US border and see the newer 5 door hatch from time to time.

ProRail commented:
October 8, 2010, 10:42 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by S93D View Post
This could be a great move by BMW!

The 3 series is getting bigger and bigger.

What BMW needs is a 3 and 5 door hatchback, something along the lines of a 80's Porsche 944 or Volvo C30. Then also have a 5 door version. Since it would be smaller than a 3 series, put a 1.8 or 2.0 or 2.3 litre 16 valve turbo in it. If 2.3, then that would be good for 260 hp.

There's nothing sacred about a 6 cylinder.

If BMW really had money, they could have FWD, RWD, and AWD versions. Don't laugh, the Rover 75 came in FWD or RWD versions! The FWD version could be for Chicago (optional RWD) and the RWD version for Los Angeles.
They have them in Europe, and they are selling very well.
PPXYZ commented:
October 13, 2010, 4:10 am

So Toyota takes a Toyota and rebrands it a Lexus for the American market.

BMW is going in the opposite direction by taking its high end brand and slapping it on a putt-putt.

Great. Sounds like a completely bone headed decision.
ZGator commented:
October 15, 2010, 12:23 pm

Many Generation X and younger folks, I would dare say the majority, who like PBR beer for instance, actually won't buy a BMW because of the stigma, YUPPIE, attitude, maybe someone from BMW marketing is smart enough now to realize that, or they realize this demographic is the future and they are starting to earn enough cake now to afford BMWs. That's right in case you don't know it, the BMW badge is not a status symbol but a stigma that many of my age don't want to associate, it actually makes us feel uncomfortable.

Having 2 BMWs now, I have 0 interest in buying another with the current lineup everything is overpriced, manuals are hard to find, I just want something that handles well, german engineered, and has good mpg, and is more functional than a status symbol.

The only chance in hell my next car will be a BMW and not something from VAG (VW diesel wagon for instance) is if BMW creates a line like this, I think they already do make some great products for everybody else but USA - i.e. 118d hatchback, 320d wagon, but apparently some *marketing azzholes think nobody wants that here, so go ahead cheapin up a 320d wagon, 1 series hatch, put a different badge on it, as to not offend those who buy BMW for status symbols, I am all for it, and won't have to deal with the BMW stigma I feel now.

*after a few discussion of this in the past with other posters, I think it is actually financial decision to only sell the overpriced bloated stuff over here, and the exchange rate has not helped either..
brkf commented:
October 15, 2010, 12:26 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZGator View Post
Many Generation X and younger folks, I would dare say the majority, who like PBR beer for instance, actually won't buy a BMW because of the stigma, YUPPIE, attitude, maybe someone from BMW marketing is smart enough now to realize that, or have realized they actually have money and will be the coming demographic. That's right in case you don't know it, the BMW badge is not a status symbol but a stigma that many of my age don't want to associate, it actually makes us feel uncomfortable.

Having 2 BMWs now, I have 0 interest in buying another with the current lineup everything is overpriced, manuals are hard to find, I just one something that handles well, and has good mpg, and is more functional than a status symbol.

The only chance in hell my next car will be a BMW and not something from VAG (VW diesel wagon for instance) is if BMW creates a line like this, I think they already do make some great products for everybody else but USA - i.e. 118d hatchback, 320d wagon, but apparently some marketing azzholes think nobody wants that here, so go ahead cheapin up a 320d wagon, 1 series hatch, put a different badge on it, as to not offend those who buy BMW for status symbols, I am all for it, and won't have to deal with the BMW
I really don't think anyone buys a BMW as a status symbol. They're so common you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a few.
ZGator commented:
October 15, 2010, 12:50 pm

once I read your post I said he must be from southern cali.. check! yeah around Boston they ain't nothing to special, but outside the big coastal cities more so, I don't think they are that big of a deal even in germany and europe, especially since you can get more practical versions.

I like this quote from the OP link, which I didn't read until now:

"BMW's research shows that too many premium car buyers either did not find BMW's performance-driven brand image accessible, or they rejected the brand as being for people who are "arrogant" or "poseurs."" (hey they did get the memo or interviewed some 'hipsters')
timfitz63 commented:
October 15, 2010, 12:51 pm

Quote:
Originally Posted by blueguydotcom View Post
I really don't think anyone buys a BMW as a status symbol. They're so common you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a few.
I tend to agree. At one time (maybe 20-30 years ago), I think BMW was -- either perceived or promoted as -- something of a status vehicle here in the United States; but I don't think it was ever regarded as a direct competitor to "true" status brands like Cadillac or Lincoln.

I see plenty of BMW's on the road in both Pittsburgh (a traditionally blue-collar town), as well as Lexington (a more upscale community). Granted, a brand new 7-series can cost you upwards of $100k, but a "plain" 3-series sedan doesn't cost much (if anything) more than an equivalent-model Buick, so...
Michael Schott commented:
October 15, 2010, 1:53 pm

BMW's are certainly still status symbols. Yes they are everywhere in LA but there are millions of cars there so you'll see more of everything. If they weren't status symbols then people would buy Toyota's instead.

Regarding small economical BMW's in the US, I think BMW's marketing people are absolutely right. How many people are going to pay $35-40K for a 320d e91? Not nearly enough to do the certification. BMW's are still luxury cars in the US and BMW doesn't want to dilute the market until they are forced to in order to meet fuel economy standards.
PPXYZ commented:
October 18, 2010, 2:16 am

Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, Cadillac, Porsche, etc. are status symbols. If they were not they would be Buicks or Hyundais.

BMW should be really careful or it will be a Buick. Hey, follow the direction of American car companies why don't you? Trash the brand by selling putt-putts to every under employed 20 year old.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-st...t-1956898.html

"In 2009, the branding consultancy Interbrand put the value of the Mercedes brand at $23.9bn, just ahead of the estimated value of the BMW badge at $21.7bn. The Audi and Porsche brands were valued at about $5bn and $4.2bn respectively, while even Toyota's still-young luxury brand, Lexus, was valued at $3.2bn....

The problem is, unless they are handled extremely carefully, such efforts can be self-defeating. The value of any luxury brand depends heavily on its exclusivity, so the very effort to exploit such a brand by making it more accessible and applying it more widely can undermine its value."