Baby grows mus­cles

TheMdivi­sion thinks smaller may be bet­ter, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige News -

THE baby of the BMW fam­ily is head­ing for a ma­jor mus­cle makeover. The 135i coupe has been nom­i­nated by the M divi­sion as the ideal base for its next go-faster car, fol­low­ing the lat­est X6 M and ahead of a likely up­grade of the com­ing 5 Se­ries GT.

Al­bert Bier­mann, who heads prod­uct de­vel­op­ment at BMW’s M op­er­a­tion, says: ‘‘The 135i is al­ready a very good car. It is an ob­vi­ous choice for M.

‘‘Let’s put it this way: ev­ery­thing is on the radar, but some mod­els get more fo­cus than oth­ers.

‘‘For now we are fine on the Sports Ac­tiv­ity side with the X6 and X5. We would rather fo­cus on some­thing on the op­po­site side of the range, do­ing maybe a smaller car. That way we get the younger cus­tomers in our cars.’’

Bier­mann says M is shift­ing its em­pha­sis a lit­tle as it re­sponds to the green­ing of global motoring.

The shift has al­ready trig­gered BMW’s de­ci­sion to with­draw from For­mula One at year’s end.

‘‘We will def­i­nitely bring emis­sions down a lot. The X6 M is a good first ex­am­ple. This is a big car with all-wheel drive and it’s bet­ter in emis­sions than the M5 or the M6.

‘‘It’s the best in the seg­ment,’’ Bier­mann says, ‘‘but it’s faster than the com­pe­ti­tion.’’

He says M is com­mit­ted to the broader push by BMW.

‘‘This is us do­ing our part at BMW M to sup­port the Ef­fi­cient Dy­nam­ics strat­egy. We call it Ef­fi­cient M Dy­nam­ics.

‘‘In the next mod­els that will come out you can ex­pect a sig­nif­i­cantly lower emis­sion level, but not com­pro­mis­ing on per­for­mance. We are work­ing on the next M5 and we are on the early stage of the next M3. And we are looking into many things.’’

So what about hy­brid and elec­tric cars?

‘‘So far we have got the most out of fuel and in fu­ture we will get the most out of bat­ter­ies. Ev­ery­thing in its time,’’ Bier­mann says. ‘‘There is a time for hy­brids and there will be a time for real elec­tric cars.

‘‘I would not say that there will be a hy­brid M car or a full elec­tric M car, but I’m not say­ing there won’t be.

‘‘But if it makes a true sports car then, yes. And if it’s a tech­nol­ogy that is af­ford­able for the cus­tomer, you can ex­pect us to be there.’’

Sales of M cars have dropped a lit­tle in the past 18 months, but Bier­mann says the dip is re­lated more to the mod­els than any cus­tomer drift away from the go­fast mod­els.

‘‘Last year we had 24,000 units, but this year the M5 is one of the old­est mod­els in our port­fo­lio. And the M3 has had its peak,’’ he says.

‘‘Last year, though we got hit like every­one else, we had our sec­ond-best year ever with BMW M.

‘‘We def­i­nitely plan to grow.’’

Hot stuff: Paul Gover at the wheel of a BMW 135i. The M divi­sion is eye­ing the fam­ily’s small­est mem­ber.

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