The Reason Those BMW Rumors Weren’t True

Behold, the first serious attempt by BMW to produce a FWD lineup, the Active Tourer Concept. When the possibility that BMW might purchase Saab’s bankrupt assets was floated around, I imagine the developers of this concept were scratching their heads quite a bit, as it appears on the surface to follow the parameters Saab was trying to adapt to its Phoenix platform.

Besides the low displacement turbo three cylinder engine powering the front wheels, it has an electric rear axle– except this one can actually power the car by itself, something that Saab was working on behind the scenes but didn’t have the chance to fully develop. It has a hatchback, it’s flexible enough to use on several models including the next Mini. It is essentially the answer to what happens when you design a BMW with Saab philosophy. Replace the standard BMW design language with some Swedish Aero influence and I think you have the answer to what most of us here wanted, a super efficient small AWD Saab.

The concept will make its debut in Paris, and just like most BMW concepts, the real version of the 1-series GT will probably look very similar in production form. While we patiently wait for NEVS to finalize their business model and production ambitions beyond the 9-3 EV, into 2015 and beyond, it’s worth looking at what other possible cars will be available in the EV market. Some of you will hate the styling, but I actually think this is one of the more resolved shapes BMW has come out with under

 

Adrian van Hooydonk’s leadership. BMW hasn’t announced whether or not this powertrain will be available at launch in 2014, but I see no reason why a mild through the road plug-in hybrid like this shouldn’t be. Before SU readers complain that BMW ripped off Saab design, characteristics, eAAM, or even turbocharging lower displacement engines, realize that the entire industry has been moving in that direction and that BMW has been developing these strategies in house for a long time. As much as Saab could have fit into their brand portfolio, clearly they decided that given the government mandates to increase fleet/brand fuel economy meant that a change to their core BMW brand was in order. While some BMW fans have griped about the FWD architecture adoption, most realize that for smaller cars it’s inevitable. Certainly the instant electric torque on the rear axle can compensate and add some RWD feel back to the equation.

But that brings us to the real reason this is relevant to Saab’s future– that hybrid powertrain. For those of us with short commutes living in countries and municipalities that give tax rebates, this allows us to drive nearly gas free for no extra charge, with zero range anxiety. I hate to say it, but if NEVS doesn’t plan on releasing a through the road hybrid like this, barring some incredible charging infrastructure installations like the one I’ll be covering from Tesla next week, I am most likely going to be saving my money to buy one of these BMWs. I would love an electric car, but without an electric charging infrastructure on the highways for long drives and charges under 30 minutes while I grab a drink and a bathroom break, I’m not biting. Something tells me I’m not the only one here who thinks that way. We know NEVS is listening, lets hope that with enough reminders they embrace the core values of this BMW concept.

 

Since NEVS is going full throttle for the uncharted EV waters, I’ll be posting many more articles about what the competition plans to do, how they will price their products, and what market conditions will mean for Saab’s future. One of the best functions of SU is to educate Saab fans about what the future means for our favorite brand, and I think that reflecting on the successes or failures of EV startups and industry heavyweights’ attempts is a good place as any to start. Expect many more articles about EV and hybrid tech in the coming weeks and months. I promise even the biggest skeptics in EVs will be impressed by where NEVS can take Saab.

Off topic a bit: Our good friend and regular commenter Steve C. is active with the National Motorists Association. The NMA Foundation is involved in a contest and needs some help to get over the top for a $10,000 grant. For those unfamiliar with the NMA, they’re a non-profit organization dedicated to finding innovative ways to improve and protect the interests of motorists. They are a leading resource for educational materials related to fighting unjust traffic tickets, and are a leading voice in the national dialogue on important issues such as lane courtesy. Who can argue with those causes? If you’re a Facebook user, if you could just click this link then click the green “vote” button by September 19, that would be appreciated greatly by Steve and NMA.

TonymacUK
Member
4 years 7 days ago

Good article, Jeff.

Red J
Member
4 years 7 days ago

C’mon,
there where too many leaks about BMW trying to buy Saab, so I think this has nothing to do with that.

And referring to the car. BMW works with PSA, and PSA has shown some through the road hybrids, so there is no BMW magic in that car. And trying to compare that mini-MPV with a Saab hatch is a little bit misleading.

It remains to be seen if this through the road hybrid is able to match the eAAM concept, or if it is only a “dumb” 4WD system (corner vectoring) as the systems currently used by PSA.

baas900i
Member
4 years 7 days ago

BMW will always have their own style and undoubted substance, the main question is where the old/rescued/new SAAB is heading? [apparently the griffin logo has been removed from the trollhattan site? can anyone confirm this? are NEVS getting ready for some exposure?]

xelav
Member
4 years 7 days ago

Reading a few car magazines , it’s obvious that in the near future a lot if hybrids come on the market. Also a Kia , with 2litre petrol engine with approximate 190 hp, combined with an electric rear axle .That means that the tech to make an hybrid will become more common and less exclusive, meaning cheaper. Mahindra has build a new factory where they only build ev’s. So hybrids and ev’s are coming and can’t be ignored. What is nevs usp again?

Bernard
Member
4 years 7 days ago
This shows that Saab was working on the right kind of technology. Incidentally, there may be a little more technological overlap between this new BMW concept and Saab. Given the car’s size, it’s likely that this car and the Mini Countryman use the same platform. The Countryman, of course, was the second car to use the Haldex rear axle from the Turbo-X. This means that BMW and Saab were working within the same design parameters for their hybrid/AWD solutions. I’m sure the Saab version would have looked much better. This concept looks like the old B-class with a bad BMW… Read more »
adams
Member
4 years 7 days ago

I would love to see what Hareide/Padian would do if given the same package to wrap.

Angelo V.
Member
4 years 7 days ago

And where will this be priced? Aren’t the 1 series BMWs in the 30s, US dollars? I wonder if BMW’s reasoning for wanting to buy Saab (if that rumor was ever true) would have been to eliminate one competitor by owning that competitor? And perhaps if they saw the tide going toward NEVS, they decided it wasn’t a competitor at all, but a pretender with a shakey business plan, focused on China—-and decided it wasn’t worth bothering with? And if NEVS should fail and those assets become available again, maybe BMW will bite next time?

LG Aero
Member
4 years 7 days ago

Jeff you hit by saying all of these developments are inevitable. Saab was going in the right direction, NEVS is not with pure EV.

I am surprised that there never seems to be any discussion of the Buick Lacrosse, which is as close to the 9-5 NG as any car can be the has been on the market for the last year with “Electric Assist”, essentially the electric rear axle. Use virtually the same drive train as the 9-5 , adds the electric axle and gets about 20% better economy.. Any one here actually driven one ?

Angelo V.
Member
4 years 7 days ago

LG: I haven’t driven the Lacrosse—-but they look really nice.

Nikola
Member
4 years 7 days ago

I’ve driven new Lacrosse – very nice car to drive, especially v6 model. Ride is better then ng 9-5 has and it is queter. handles very good too – not as good as 9-5 but Lacrosse is way more comfortable and has better materials on dash.

Nikola
Member
4 years 7 days ago

BTW E-Assist on buick is stupid though- just a mild hybrid setup, FWD, no rear axle at all, just electric motor hooked up by the serpentine belt to crank pulley. Basically all it does is start/stop the engine at a red light and provides minimal assist at acceleration – electric motor is only about 15 HP. AWD on Buick is available only with conventional 3.6 V6.
And if you put one on the lift (I Did, I work at the dealer) it has very familiar Haldex module, front and rear diff etc.

Pedro
Member
4 years 7 days ago

SAAB was a fit for BMW a few years back when BMW presumably did look into SAAB (something a former GM little birdie e-mailed to me a few months back) 😉

Right now, why bother? BMW gas a clever product portfolio, will leverage the MINI platform with this 1-Series GT (eventually with the 1-Series hatchback range as well if the coupe/convertible are renamed 2-Series)… Again, why bother with SAAB?

Angelo V.
Member
4 years 7 days ago

I think the reason they should have bothered with Saab—-would have been to keep a BMW line all rear drive platforms and AWD. Mini is a sporty/economy FWD line. Saab could have been the entry level luxury and luxury FWD line. Time will tell—-but it might compromise BMW’s image to offer a BMW branded small FWD car, which gets away from their history quite a bit. Frankly—–I’m interested in the new 1 series. It sounds good to me—-what Saab should have been and what NEVS should be perhaps.

Pedro
Member
4 years 6 days ago

Well, the Isettas carried BMW’s logo, so… I don’t see much of an issue with this. I’d only worry about brand identity loss for BMW if they showed FWD 3-Series and 5-Series models 😉

Alain Gagnon
Member
4 years 7 days ago

Nothing revolutionary from BMW, Peugeot has something like the 3008 Hybryd 4+ that is already on the road not in 2014 and work with Diesel that is far better economy solution if they want to go in the way of economy.

Angelo V.
Member
4 years 7 days ago

I like the front end on this Bimmer. If they made this as a turbo diesel, sans electric crapola—-and sold it at a reasonable price, I’d consider being a buyer when I need a new car.

SpinM
Member
4 years 7 days ago
I’d preffer Saab design, though I kinda like the nose. It looks somewhat like 5-series GT. Only that car is too big for it’s shape. This one is better sized. Alas, the rest of it reminds me of Honda FRV, which is not my favourite Honda by far. All in all, I’m not ovely impressed. So if this is to be 1-series GT, I am curious to see the 3-series GT. Probably just to satisfy my curiosity, because there’s no way I’m going to be able to afford it. Anyway, much more than that, I am looking forward to what… Read more »
Nikola
Member
4 years 7 days ago

Toyota has been using rear electric axle for years in its Lexus RX 400h AWD by the way. Combined with electric/gasoline driven front axle.

rune
Member
4 years 7 days ago

The AAM guys compared their stuff with the RX450 last year:
http://saabsunited.saabklubben.se/2011/02/e-aam-driveline-systems-video.html

Nikola
Member
4 years 7 days ago

Correct. Lexus stuff is not as technologically advanced as AAM my point was that it is not a new idea as is torque vectoring – it has been around forever.

maanders
Member
4 years 7 days ago

I am not completely sold on the styling, but unless this is really tiny inside and it does have some cargo flexibility….I am at least interested in seeing more about this.

biritter
Member
4 years 7 days ago

It’s likely all about what the definition of “true” is. It is likely that BMW was poking around, if for no other reason that to use the sales process to allow them to “look under the hood” of Saab, whether to see their finances or technology, etc. This is very common when a company comes up for sale, its competitors come looking to see things they otherwise would not be able to see. If they had any true intentions, well that’s another matter.

Gregory
Member
4 years 7 days ago

Of course if BMW builds it, people will buy it. When Saab builds a hatchback, it’s considered eccentric and quirky.

hans h
Member
4 years 6 days ago

That is an irritating truth.

phermansson
Member
4 years 7 days ago

I’ve got more than two sources who confirmed to me that BMW placed a bid for Saab Powertrain AB only, but not the whole factory which is why they were left out early in the game of purchasing Saab…

Coke is it
Member
4 years 6 days ago

It’s interesting that BMW was after Saab Powertrain since. It’s a proof of what we all know, Saab is better than BMW in the most important area. Bling bling can everyone ad but the different parts of the powertrain makes a car what it really is.

JasonPowell
Member
4 years 6 days ago
I think the title here is a little misleading as just because they had developers on this concept doesn’t mean they weren’t looking to buy Saab assets or any of what the rumors were. These rumors were all over the place and one would have to think there was some truth. As for BMW wanting to buy and continue the Saab brand, maybe that is where the disconnect was and maybe they just wanted technology, but to say there was no truth in the rumors would seem silly to me. Remember that the objective was to sell all of Saab… Read more »
JasonPowell
Member
4 years 6 days ago
Personally I’m not a big fan of Chris Bangle and didn’t like the tactics he used on Jason when interviewing him. I know he is no longer the chief designer but his right hand man took over and to me the styling hasn’t changed enough to think it’s any better. Any time I think of BMW I think of the old TG piece where Simon Cowell looking at a 2003 I think 5 series says he think the designer should be fired. As far as BMW goes though, they could probably make the Pontiac Aztek sell just on a BMW… Read more »
Angelo V.
Member
4 years 6 days ago
Was it back in the early 2000s when they saddled the rear end of the 7 series with that humpback? Then, even though it was clearly ugly and not well received, they stubbornly stuck with that design cue as they redesigned other models. All that said—-I do think the front ends are nice—-BMW styling is still better than most—-and the interiors are very nice. I love my ’93 3 Series (325i). It’s a wonderful car to drive and has been reliable too, though it’s got low mileage on the odometer. As for the Asstec—–no, not even BMW could move that… Read more »
adams
Member
4 years 6 days ago
I agree with you on Bangle. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of Castriota, either, but Bangle was a jerk. To have a firm debate designer to designer in private is one thing. But to do it in front of a camera like Bangle did was purely for the sake of being a know-it-all jerk. In regards to your comment about who buys Bimmers these days I also agree that many, if not most, do buy because of the badge. It wasn’t always this way, of course, but BMW is losing its ethos just as Saab did under GM’s stewardship.… Read more »
xelav
Member
4 years 6 days ago

The typical BMW driver is mutating , now the Audi drivers are the ones with the”I own the overtaking lane” attitude .

JasonPowell
Member
4 years 6 days ago

lol, I tend to agree a little for my area too but I have noticed with Audi drivers that they are not the most loyal. I have seen too many Audi drivers switch when it comes time to a new car, not as many BMW drivers do that.

Thylmuc
Member
4 years 6 days ago

What an ugly car. Again.

EuroDriver
Member
4 years 6 days ago

What is BMW’s design team smoking?!

Angelo V.
Member
4 years 6 days ago
“Some of you will hate the styling, but I actually think this is one of the more resolved shapes BMW has come out with under Adrian van Hooydonk’s leadership.” I totally agree. “resolved” is a good way of phrasing it too. I think it’s a style that will wear well—-that will grow on people. I have a little anxiety about how the “A” pillar integrates with the hood and fender—–ditto for the rear bumper encroaching on and into the rear quarter panel—-but taken as a whole, yes, “resolved” is a suitable description and I’d say a compliment. Could Saab have… Read more »
Thylmuc
Member
4 years 6 days ago

To me, BMW’s design presently looks like a mixture between this:

http://www.shiotsu-used-car.com/blog/trucks-in-india.htm

(ornamental decorations)

and this:
&w=584&h=355&ei=Q1hZUNHQF7GO4gT-h4GADg&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=577&vpy=38&dur=2871&hovh=175&hovw=288&tx=91&ty=195&sig=112495292638809750300&page=9&tbnh=108&tbnw=177&ndsp=20&ved=1t:429,r:13,s:156,i:245

(concave, ill-looking shapes)

And no, it will not grow on me.

Angelo V.
Member
4 years 6 days ago

I sort of like the colorful truck in the first photo. You wouldn’t drive that? Maybe NEVS could put an electric powertrain in it for us.

3cyl
Member
4 years 6 days ago

NEVS will need deep pockets if it is going head to head with BMW.

Angelo V.
Member
4 years 6 days ago

NEVS is not going head to head with BMW.

3cyl
Member
4 years 6 days ago

The post stated:

“We know NEVS is listening, lets hope that with enough reminders they embrace the core values of this BMW concept”

ryanonsrc
Member
4 years 6 days ago
The “BMW rumors weren’t true” bit is an over-simplification. Based on what I know, there was talk of a complete deal and it fell through, for various reasons that I’d declare as both uninteresting and moot at this point. I will go on record stating that I applaud BMW’s work and their styling, as they look pretty darn good (post-Bangle). But, as BMWs are effectively the Hondas of the San Francisco Bay Area, I would only buy one if I were interested in “conforming with the crowd”. Sorry: not interested. It’s easy enough to replace the few plastic bits I… Read more »
E. Boon
Member
4 years 6 days ago

I “just” wanted a 9-5 with a BMW 5 diesel engine and automatic gearbox.

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