BMW going front-wheel-drive…….with Saab?

Earlier in the week I posted an article from Pete De Lorenzo, the auto extremist, where he criticised BMW’s lack of focus on what they do best – the creation of the supposed Ultimate Driving Machine.

Pete is frothing at the mouth now that they’ve announced they’re going to jump into the FWD small car segment.

In the future, we will generate growth both in the large model segments and in the compact and sub-compact model segments. We will launch more MINI and BMW models and variants – also in the small car segment. This segment is expected to grow further. And we will take advantage of this opportunity. We are exploring the possibility of developing a joint architecture for the front and four-wheel drive systems of these cars. In other words: There will be front-wheel drive BMWs in the smaller vehicle classes in the future. We all know that the cost structure in the small car segment is different from that of the larger model classes. We intend to grow profitably in this segment as well.

That’s BMW’s Dr. Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, commenting at their annual Accounts Press Conference a few days ago.

BMW have already moved into turbocharging with incredibly good results and are now looking to go small and FWD. This is an ominous sign.

But Auto Motor and Sport in Sweden tend to think that Saab may just join up with them on the development of this smaller platform. I’m not totally sure about this theory given how Saab see themselves as such direct competition for BMW, but AMS have recently written the following (Googletrans):

In addition to their own models BMW are also seeking partners to share the cost of the new platform. Under development head Klaus Draeger for one discussions with various partners but named them no closer. Draeger on the other hand admitted that “it is natural to talk with their current partners only,” which in this case means that the PSA group (Peugeot and Citroen), which already has a long-standing co-production of engines and transmissions.

Klaus Draegers information on external partners for the new platform can also throw a new light on the persistent rumors that Saab and BMW negotiated collaborations. In Saab’s current businessplan there is no financial leeway for a “9-1” but it is no secret that management is keen to supplement their model range with a smaller car. It is also rumored that Saab is negotiating the purchase of diesel engines from BMW for its European version of the SUV-model 9-4X. This could be a first clear move away from dependence on GM’s powertrains.

I didn’t realise there were such persistant rumours going around.

As I said, it seems like a longshot, but BMW are definitely heading that way and it’s a segment that Saab would like to get into as well. Maybe they’ve got some technology out in the back shed that could entice the big Bavarian into letting them play in their sandbox.

It’ll be one to watch with interest.

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Thanks to Jan for the AMS tip.

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