100 BMW REVOL

INTO TURNS

Ignition - - 1st Gear - BY STEPHANIE WALL­CRAFT PHO­TOG­RA­PHY COUR­TESY BMW GROUP

When you have a lot of big ideas about emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy and the fu­ture of mo­bil­ity to show off to the world, you need a big plat­form for show­cas­ing them.

A 100th birth­day seems like the best pos­si­ble rea­son. BMW Group has rolled out a se­ries of highly fu­tur­is­tic con­cepts over the past few months: one for BMW at their kick-off cel­e­bra­tion in early May, and two more for Mini and Rolls-royce in the sum­mer. BMW Group has one fur­ther con­cept to un­veil as its year of cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tions con­tin­ues. The Mo­tor­rad Vi­sion Next 100, the com­pany's look for­ward into the fu­ture of mo­tor­cy­cling, will be shown in Los An­ge­les in Septem­ber.

But on four wheels, here's a closer look at what each of the con­cepts brings to the ta­ble for its re­spec­tive brand.

The first con­cept car un­veiled, the BMW Vi­sion Next 100, is a study in how au­ton­o­mous cars will im­pact not only on lux­ury brands as a whole but also in pre­serv­ing a pas­sion for driv­ing in an age when driv­ing it­self is no longer nec­es­sary.

The con­cept shows a car with two dis­tinct drive modes. In ac­tive mode, a min­i­mal­is­tic steer­ing wheel emerges from the dash­board and the en­tire wind­screen turns into a head-up dis­play. The driver is shown de­tail about the road ahead with de­tail such as ob­sta­cles that are not yet in view iden­ti­fied via GPS data, the op­ti­mal lines through curves, and per­for­mance sta­tis­tics.

Once au­ton­o­mous mode is se­lected, the steer­ing wheel re­tracts into the dash­board, the seat­ing po­si­tion is re­laxed, and a de­vice called the Com­pan­ion takes over. Via a cen­tral­ized light, the car com­mu­ni­cates not only with its oc­cu­pants but also with those out­side such as pedes­tri­ans to let ob­servers know that its sys­tems are in con­trol. In this mode, the head-up dis­play's colours cool into more re­lax­ing tones, and the Com­pan­ion can no­tify the driver of at­trac­tions along the route like winer­ies or mu­se­ums that it knows from past ex­pe­ri­ence might be of in­ter­est to the driver.

All of this is pack­aged with a ze­roe­mis­sions pow­er­train, though whether that means elec­tric, fuel cell, or some other tech­nol­ogy, BMW rep­re­sen­ta­tives de­clined specifics. Its highly fu­tur­is­tic-look­ing styling show­cases retic­u­lat­ing wheel cov­ers – though north­ern cli­mates and their salt-crusted slush likely haven't been fac­tored into that de­ci­sion – and in­te­rior ma­te­ri­als that are 100% ve­gan and re­cy­clable as a nod to the quest for sus­tain­abil­ity.

BMW Group has been pulling out all the stops on cel­e­brat­ing its 100th an­niver­sary. It all started in Ger­many back in March, where the com­pany kicked off its cen­te­nary year by host­ing a gala pre­sen­ta­tion in Mu­nich for 2,000 guests from around the world.

Chore­ographed to pre­ci­sion and smat­tered with shades of Cirque du Soleil, the per­for­mance used mu­sic, dance, and spe­cial ef­fects to cap­ture the char­ac­ter of each of the com­pany’s brands -- the heart-pump­ing thrills of Mo­tor­rad, the 1960s-a-go-go of Mini, the stiff up­per lip op­u­lence of Rolls-royce – and ended with a grand in­tro­duc­tion for its BMW Vi­sion Next 100 con­cept.

The con­cept car was later met with sim­i­lar fan­fare at an event in Bei­jing in May, which was fol­lowed up by the de­buts of the Mini and Rolls-royce Vi­sion Next 100 con­cepts at a press event in Lon­don in June.

Fur­ther cel­e­bra­tions are on­go­ing. On top of the many events be­ing held by BMW en­thu­si­ast clubs around the world, the com­pany’s global home base of Mu­nich is play­ing host to sev­eral more over the com­ing months.

Those most ar­dent en­thu­si­asts who are able to time their travel will want to con­sider go­ing to the BMW Fes­ti­val this fall.

On Septem­ber 9 to 11, Mu­nich’s Olympic Park will play host to a va­ri­ety of in­ter­ac­tive dis­plays, drive ex­pe­ri­ences, a cor­ral with over 1,000 cars from BMW Group’s past 100 years, evening con­certs, and much more. De­tails can be found at bmw-fes­ti­val.de/en.

If you’re un­able to be there on those ex­act days but would still en­joy a rea­son to travel to Mu­nich, the BMW Mu­seum’s 100 Years, 100 Master­pieces ex­hibit is still on dis­play for a few more months. It in­cludes not only a de­light­ful cross-sec­tion of his­toric ve­hi­cles – ev­ery­thing from the le­gendary M1 to the 1500 sedan that kept the com­pany in busi­ness – but also an ar­ray of pho­tos and in­for­ma­tion telling BMW Groups sto­ries from an­gles such as its in­no­va­tions in work­flow ef­fi­ciency and the peo­ple who made it all hap­pen.

Sit­u­ated at the base of the Four-cylin­der Build­ing that acts as BMW Group Global Head­quar­ters in Mu­nich, the ex­hibit is sched­uled to be on dis­play un­til next sum­mer. While the themes of sus­tain­abil­ity and driv­ing en­joy­ment con­tinue into the Mini cen­te­nary con­cept, the pre­vail­ing theme of the Mini Vi­sion Next 100 is cop­ing with in­creas­ing ur­ban­iza­tion. Can a driver who doesn't own a car of his or her own still feel a sense of per­son­al­iza­tion in a ve­hi­cle?

In this con­cept, the idea is pre­sented that per­haps a car-shar­ing cul­ture can still of­fer that in­di­vid­u­al­ity. The styling is pre­sented in a sil­ver skin that the designers re­fer to as a blank can­vas, al­low­ing driv­ers to get into any Mini and vary it based on a user pro­file that can also be tweaked to re­flect mood or sit­u­a­tions in the mo­ment. Ev­ery­thing from the roof to the in­te­rior light­ing is de­signed to re­spond with graphic pro­jec­tions to de­liver a per­son­al­ized ex­pe­ri­ence.

The con­trol mod­ule, dubbed the Cooper­izer, sym­bol­izes the ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence that re­sponds to the driver's per­son­al­ized set­tings, which also en­com­pass en­ter­tain­ment, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and au­ton­o­mous driv­ing pref­er­ences. An In­spire Me but­ton can cause the Mini to change the de­sign to re­flect what it knows to be the driver's in­ter­ests based on, for ex­am­ple, a re­cently vis­ited art ex­hibit, or it could mod­ify a pro­grammed route to take more dy­namic roads and switch into John Cooper Works per­for­mance road.

This year, BMW Group Canada is also cel­e­brat­ing a mile­stone: 2016 marks its 30th an­niver­sary of op­er­a­tion in our home and na­tive land.

While BMWS had been sold by im­porters prior to then for years, it was in 1986 that BMW Group Canada was as­sem­bled as a wholly-owned sub­sidiary of BMW AG.

At the time, 40 as­so­ci­ates worked to sell 4,600 ve­hi­cles in the first year work­ing un­der then-pres­i­dent Hans Blesse -- an es­pe­cially in­ter­est­ing point given that Blesse, af­ter go­ing on to fill nu­mer­ous roles within the com­pany world­wide, is back in his home coun­try of Canada to­day play­ing the same role he did 30 years ago. A hand­ful of those as­so­ci­ates who worked un­der Blesse dur­ing his first stint are still with the com­pany to­day.

“Af­ter many years work­ing for BMW Group around the world, be­ing back home in Canada and cel­e­brat­ing our 30th an­niver­sary as a for­mal sub­sidiary is es­pe­cially re­ward­ing,” Blesse said. “In our 30-year his­tory, the last 25 have been con­sec­u­tive years of sales growth.

“I’m par­tic­u­larly proud of the al­most 4,000 as­so­ci­ates we em­ploy through our world class re­tail net­work. To­gether, we have the joy of de­liv­er­ing the ul­ti­mate driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to Cana­dian cus­tomers from coast to coast.”

More than 42,000 ve­hi­cles were sold by BMW Group Canada in 2015 at the 97 deal­er­ships across the coun­try: 47 in to­tal for BMW, 30 for Mini, and 20 for Mo­tor­rad. (Rolls-royce op­er­a­tions in Canada are man­aged by its sub­sidiary in the United States.)

Within that time, the com­pany has grown large enough that it built two re­gional of­fices, one in Mon­treal and the other in Van­cou­ver, and sub­di­vided it­self into three re­gions: west­ern, cen­tral, and eastern. In 2010, its head­quar­ters were moved from Whitby to a larger fa­cil­ity in Rich­mond Hill, On­tario, where its op­er­a­tions re­main to­day.

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