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Frankfurt show: BMW M not chasing AMG

M people: BMW M boss Frank van Meel says the Alfa Romeo Giulia QV is a worthy rival for the famed M3.

BMW’s M division welcomes new rivals but won’t chase AMG volume

BMW logo18 Sep 2017

By TIM NICHOLSON in FRANKFURT

THE head of BMW’S M performance car arm, Frank van Meel, says the brand is not seeking to outpace the rapidly growing sales of arch-rival Mercedes-AMG, but he acknowledged the increasing number of worthy competitors in the segment.

The M division has seen a number of new rivals enter the fray in recent years, including Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations as well as the revival of Alfa Romeo.

Mr van Meel told Australian journalists at BMW M headquarters in Munich last week that of all of the brand’s new or existing rivals, Alfa Romeo had impressed him the most with its Ferrari V6-powered rear-wheel-drive Giulia QV.

Asked if he saw the new players as a threat, Mr van Meel said: “Of course, we look at a lot of cars.

“We look at Cadillac because they are really moving towards more performance with what they are doing. We look a lot at Porsche because with the X5 M the main competitor is the Porsche Cayenne. We also look at Jaguar Land Rover because they are also moving up and going strong into performance.

“And also Alfa Romeo with the new Giulia, they more or less followed the M3 completely as a concept so for us it was really interesting to see how far they came and I must say, for me, they made a really nice car, to say something about a competitor.” When asked what score he would give the Alfa for performance, Mr van Meel said his M brand was the segment leader, but also praised the Italian-built performance sedan.

“We say we are the best, I have to say that and I am also convinced about that.

But I think the closest one regarding vehicle dynamics in that segment really is the Alfa, they did a very good job,” he said.

M sales have been on the rise in recent years, lifting from 63,000 in 2015 to 68,000 in 2016 – its best year ever – but it is still well behind Mercedes-AMG which recorded 100,000 sales las year, a 44 per cent increase over its 2015 result.

 center imageLeft: BMW M chief executive Frank van Meel

Mr van Meel said that the go-fast brand was keen to attract new customers, but it would not push for aggressive sales increases or offer as many M models as its rival from Affalterbach.

“For us of course volume is important but we are not pursuing … volume just for the volume,” he said.

“We are pursuing volume because we think if you have a good product you should address anyone that should be addressed and not leave out people that say, ‘If I would have known that you had such a car I would have bought it.’“We are not following the principle that (we must) make an M out of each and every BMW car. So probably volume-wise, you have to be a little bit more differentiated because I see a lot more models from AMG but not all of those we would make with BMW.

“So I think we follow a different philosophy, which is okay. Of course, we compare volumes but we are not trying to make one car more than someone else.

We are trying to make at least as many as we have customers around the world.” Mr van Meel said that BMW M had grown significantly in recent years but that it was still important to communicate about the brand, which it was doing through online activities as well as customer events, such as the recent M Festival drive experience day in Japan and China.

He added that M’s expanding product line was a key driver for growth, while the company had pushed to boost the dealer presence globally in recent years.

“What I found was that our M certified dealer network worldwide was not increasing, it was more static, and over the past three years we increased from 500 certified M dealers to almost 800 right now,” he said.

“And that is not only because we want the dealers to be M certified, it is also because now we intensified communication about M vehicles and product training with our dealers to really give them more details about our cars and what they can do because sometimes it really is a hidden secret.”

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