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BMW, the world’s most successful luxury car manufacturer, is moving into new markets as the company pushes for increased global sales.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Dr Herbert Diess, Herbert Diess, Member of the Board of Management of BMW , what prompted the company to venture into all new market segments with BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe.

Diess: I think these two models really show our strategy quite well. Firstly we try to find new customers for the BMW brand by entering segments that haven’t been previously looked at and which we are now entering with a real BMW premium approach. The Active Tourer has all the electronic sophistication, great suspension set-up, and stiff body that really deliver on our brand promise of sheer driving pleasure. At the same time, by opening up a new segment, and getting new people into the brand is helping us to grow our business. For the 4 Series Gran Coupe I would say that it is a very typical BMW with in-line 6 cylinder engines with rear wheel drive and a very dynamic design. It is targeting our core customers like the M 235 which we just recently launched for customers who appreciate the sheer driving pleasure of our cars. We have followed this strategy over the past decade. We have opened up new segments like the X5, when some people said “this is not a BMW”. But it is now in its third generation and has proven itself as BMW. That is what we had on show in Geneva – a new strategy for first-time customers.

AI: What is different about the models?

Diess: The big difference is that the Active Tourer derives from our front wheel architecture whereas the 4 Series Gran Coupe derives from our rear architecture. Those are the two main architectures in our line-up. The front-wheel architecture was introduced first in the new MINI, which shares its technical architecture with the 2 Series. We start from the front wheel drive platform in the case of the 2 series Active Tourer and start from the rear wheel drive platform in the case of the 4 series Grand Coupe. Both models will be available with BMW xDrive. With the Active Tourer we are also launching our new line-up of 3 cylinder diesel and gasoline engines, as well as four cylinder engines. They will be shared between the front wheel and the rear wheel drive architectures. These models also share some electrics and electronics features which are common across the whole BMW line-up.

AI: What does the new front-wheel drive architecture bring?

Diess: It gives us a unique chance to introduce concepts like the Active Tourer. With this type of car you will have to compromise a lot if you have to stick with a rear wheel drive. You would have to compromise the baggage and the functionality of the car. We really can’t rearrange the seating in order to get more loading space with rear wheel drive. The front wheel architecture gives us the opportunity to offer cars like the 2 Series Active Tourer.

AI: Let’s talk about BMW EfficientDynamics. What are the benefits of the new turbocharged engines with three and four cylinders in terms of performance, efficiency and savings?

Diess: It is two dimensional. The new engine line-up allows us to introduce new technology – higher injection pressure for the diesel and turbo charged gasoline engine. We are also introducing new gearboxes, both automatic and manual. By rethinking and reworking the design we are also able to reduce CO2 emissions. This is by as much as the 20-25% in case of the MINI and even in some cases going to 30% when it comes to automatic gear boxes for instance. We’ve already achieved high efficiency levels in our four cylinder diesel engine, which is renowned for its low consumption. Improvements in the next generation provide savings of about 7% with the automatic, and a bit less on the manual. The engine line-up of 3, 4 and 6 cylinders gives an opportunity to improve efficiency and performance. EfficientDynamics still works.

AI: what are your expectations for the BMW i brand?

Diess: First of all we are very happy with what we have achieved so far because for us it was crucial that those cars would be still BMWs and would deliver on the brand promise of sheer driving pleasure. I think we achieved that. The feedback from the press and customers is that this is electric, but still clearly a BMW. It drives like a BMW, feels like a BMW, and that’s very important for us. On the other hand the BMW i brand should not only take our product portfolio into new dimensions of sustainability, but also should change the way we deal with customers: both in the way we market the car, and the way we provide service. That works because we are not only selling the car, but the whole system. We provide services that show where the next charging point is for example, where to find parking spots – again with charging stations, car sharing services and so on. It brings BMW into new dimension of not only offering product but also providing services around this product. We can say that after a few months those aspects are really working for us. On the very positive side the timing is perfect – with BMW i we can entice additional customers, new customers who wouldn’t have considered BMW without BMW i.

AI: You also introduce the world’s first laser headlights available for a series-produced vehicle with the BMW i8. Are we going to see the technology in other models?

Diess: The technology is at an early stage. You can imagine that after the next development cycle we can do many more things like the laser guided beams. It is a first step with the BMW i8. I am sure that this technology will be more widespread. It is too early to say when and for which models. We have to launch BMW i8 first and then we can talk about the next stage.

AI: What new services can we expect from BMW ConnectedDrive?

Diess: Besides our driver assistance systems and other active safety features or entertainment systems we continuously introduce new apps for example. We already have a few features that I would say were quite the talk of the show. iPhone and Android integration for example. We have had functions like iPhone integration for two years now, and we’ve had SIRI in our cars for the last year or so. With ConnectedDrive what really is a major change is what is now happening with the i3. When it comes to the electric range calculation which is crucial for an electric car, we do it not in the car but we do it on the host. Part of the intelligence of the car will be outside of the car and it will require that you have continuous connection. Factors to consider when calculating range include the condition of the car, how the car has been driven, and the topography, traffic and road conditions to the destination. This is a big step, a big change in the industry. The car will still be independent if the connection fails, but from time to time you will have a significant data stream in and out of the car. This is something which you will see more and more. This is what I see for the foreseeable future. We also have our real time traffic information spreading out basically all over the world.

AI: Are there new BMW models to surprise us in the near future? What is next for BMW? 

Diess: First of all it will be a MINI. The MINI Clubman Concept shows our ideas: it will decrease in size and will be more emotional and more premium. Few people would have expected it. And of course the BMW i8 will revolutionize the sports car segment.   

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