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.

57 thoughts on “The Reason Those BMW Rumors Weren’t True”

  1. 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.

    • I prefer a dumb vectoring system coupled to a battery that can power the car on electricity alone for 20 miles than the eAAM system which means I still need to use gas in my car. That short electric drive capability means a lot and from what I could tell, the eAAM solution wasn’t designed to be the main propulsion. We need to do a series with eAAM to understand its true capablities. It’d also be nice to find out if NEVS has any desire to use it, or if they’re going the pure Japanese route.

  2. 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?]

  3. 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?

  4. 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 nose job. The “tuner” wheels and typical harsh BMW suspension don’t bode well either. It looks like it would be too uncomfortable for the city, and somewhat compromised on the open road. We’ll have to wait and see what the production version is like.

  5. 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?

  6. 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 ?

      • 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.

        • 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.

          • Nikola is right, I’ve driven the eAssist setup, it’s really not even noticeable, and doesn’t add a huge fuel economy number. Maybe if they beefed up the setup, but at this point it’s too weak.

  7. 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?

    • 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.

      • Angelo I’m not sure if you’re familiar but all automakers are required to have their fleets average much lower consumption numbers sooner rather than later. Given the length of time it takes for new model development, BMW sees it as inevitable that they need to move to FWD hybrid solutions, it’s as simple as that. I’m sure they’ll be able to engineer a similar BMW feel into it.

        • I should know this—-but am uncertain: When you “average” the corporate fleets, are all divisions owned figured into the equation? In other words, for GM, is it GM’s corporate fuel economy, or does Cadillac have to stand on its own, Chevy, Buick, GMC trucks stand on their own (are trucks still excluded?)? So for BMW, is it BMW only that must meet the requirements—-or would “Mini” be considered part of BMW’s fleet average?

        • Also—-my first car was a 1979 Chevy Monza hatchback with the 3.2 liter V6. That car averaged well over 30 MPG on the highway and it was rear wheel drive. I have a replacement for it now—a 305 V8! Haven’t calculated the MPG for that one yet though. I’m afraid to know. Also, my 1988 Peugeot 505 GLS was rear drive and large enough to seat 5 people. With it’s 4 cylinder 2.2 engine, it got around 30 MPG highway too. Larger and RWD doesn’t mean you can’t get decent fuel economy numbers.

      • 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 😉

  8. 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.

    • 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.

  9. 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 new breed of Saabs might look and drive like.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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…

    • 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.

  13. 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 and when this was made clear is about when those rumors seemed to fizzle.

  14. 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 logo on the front. People buy a Beemer in my mind because of the name.

    • 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 beast. What a joke that thing was, what a design travesty.

    • 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.

      It’s sad …all cars are becoming low nose, high rear, wedge shaped bars of soap these days. The grille is the only real differentiating factor. Sad, imho. Maybe NEVS will enlist the help of Envall 😉

        • 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.

    • Eh, I’ll disagree with you Jason. For the most part, I think BMW really pushes into interesting design territory through their fabrication and material techniques. They have their own design rulebook to follow from Kidney grills to the Hoffmeister kink, just like Saab has the 3 opening grill and hockeystick. Von Hooydunk has definitely come a long way with the design, you need only look at the new 5 series vs. the old one to see that. I hate to admit it, but I prefer the 5 to the 9-5 at certain angles. It upsets me.

      • Jeff, fabrication and material techniques don’t matter to the everyday buyer though, I respect that they matter to you because you like that stuff but I don’t think that would be a buying decision for most. Admittedly, I haven’t driven the 2013 5 series and the 5 series isn’t the model I was commenting on, but the Beemers I have driven feel heavy and not a fun drive. Besides all of that though, I truly find them boring. The one car they have that I think looks nice is the 1 series convertible but the pricing when you add everything is about that of a 9-3 Aero Convertible and I like that better. Hey, to each their own though.

      • The 5-series is a very … acceptable and inoffensively styled car. Yes, the 9-5 takes some big risks in its styling (but not at the level of the Bangelized version that appears as if it has eye-lashes on both ends). But, I absolutely wanted a new 9-5 ever since I first saw it. Every single angle looks good in my eyes, but obviously we all have our own criteria for automotive beauty.

        One part of the interior that I really like is how the A/C vent covers appear to extend across the dash, over the gauge cluster. A very stylish and Scandinavian touch that has some inexplicable appeal to my geeky side 🙂

        • Ha funny you should mention those vent covers, they’re one my least favorite parts of the interior. That cheap matte plastic could have been coated or inlayed (or constructed) with metal or something to make it just a tad more premium– it just looks economy to me. As does the whole sad preproduction looking dash that sadly never got the upgrade it deserved 🙁

          The point of this article really isn’t about Saab vs. BMW styling, it’s about underlying tech and Saab’s future competition. 😉

  15. “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 done better? I think we know the answer to that is a resounding “YES.” But I look at this design and I’m not nearly as offended as some here seem to be. Maybe I’ve seen to many hideous GM designs here in the U.S.—-and my standards are compromised. But I actually like this one.

  16. 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 don’t like with Hirsch/MapTun mods and turn my 9-3 into something far more classy and distinctive than a BMW could ever hope to be. No, iPod-like pointy-clicky dial necessary.

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