FWD BMW in the pipeline

Purists will lament the concept, but it’s believed that BMW is in the process of developing a new, front-wheel drive entry level model to compete against the like of Audi’s A1 and the new Smart ForFour from Mercedes-Benz.

Priced and positioned beneath the 1 Series, the new model will share many components with the Mini brand to economise the production process and mark a significant shift in BMW’s thinking – as well as retaining its premium image, there’s a significant drive toward increased market share.

In an interview with Autocar, BMW CEO Robert Reithhofer confirmed the project, which is justified by internal studies that reveal continued demand for premium vehicle in the small car class. “We will be extending the BMW and Mini brands into the small car segment with new models and variants,” Reithofer said.

According to Autocar, the new model will be developed to share the next-generation Mini’s underpinnings, which is not due till 2014 – but it’s been suggested the new BMW could be made available in the UK as early as 2013.
“For these new vehicles we are developing a common architecture for both front and four-wheel drive,” Reithofer said.

The new model will in all likelihood be built at BMW’s Oxford plant, where the Mini is currently assembled, and share the powerplants that come from the Hams Hall engine production facility.

But rear-wheel drive need not be eliminated from the equation just yet, because the new chassis is being developed to support four-wheel drive as well, which could always result in rear-wheel drive applications in future if the demand is there.

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CAR magazine