More to come: Alpina CEO Andreas Bovensiepen said more models are earmarked for the Australian market as the company looks to expand its presence.
BMW high-performance outfit Alpina is planning to expand its Australian business by introducing a raft of new models, but it is unlikely to offer electrified powertrains in its line-up any time soon.
Alpina was launched in Australia late last year by Melbourne-based company The In Motion Group, kicking off with the B3 Sedan and Touring and B4 Coupe and Convertible that range in price from $155,900 to $170,900 plus on-road costs.
The line-up expanded in February with the addition of the 7 Series-based Alpina B7 Biturbo from $369,720, powered by a 447kW/800Nm 4.4-litre V8 engine.
Speaking with Australian journalists at last week’s Frankfurt motor show, Alpina CEO and son of the company’s founder, Andreas Bovensiepen, said he was happy with the initial launch that has seen outlets open in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
However he acknowledged that the company needed more models and to boost its brand awareness Down Under.
“I think for the beginning it is quite good,” he said on the Alpina stand. “Now of course we have a long way to go to build up the brand image. We have a lot to do. Some people know it from the UK but the Alpina philosophy, we have to bring in to people’s minds. Why buy Alpina? Exclusivity, luxury and so on.
“We need to get more models in the market. We have B4 and B4S as an engine update which just hit the market in Australia. We have the B7 as a flagship… and now in January or February we will have the B5 as the next model.”
Late last week Alpina confirmed pricing, specification and timing for the 5 Series-based B5 that uses the same powertrain as the B7 and will be priced from $239,900.
Mr Bovensiepen said more X SUV models were likely, including an Alpina version of the new-gen X3 that is expected later this year, but he ruled out an Alpina X5.
“With the X5 there is still a big portfolio of BMW M Performance and M (models), but of course we will do the next X3 with a diesel engine and I think we will bring it to Australia as well,” he said.
“X7 could be a nice addition to our portfolio so we are thinking about it.”
There is an Alpina version of the outgoing X3, dubbed the BX3, but it was never offered in Australia as it was at the end of its life cycle when Alpina launched here.
Mr Bovensiepen also ruled out offering a model smaller than a 3 Series as BMW M has already covered the competitive segment well.
“The competition in the lower segments price wise is quite hard and difficult for us to match. And therefore we are starting with the 3 Series and not lower.”
Mr Bovensiepen said it was a challenge to improve brand awareness for a small company like Alpina, but it was working to get the word out in Australia.
“Of course you know a company with 240 people working in and producing 1700 cars (annually), we have not the budgets to make big advertising campaigns. For us it is important to have you guys (motoring media) writing about Alpina and of course … treating the customer on a very high level at the dealerships and bringing the people into demo cars to get the Alpina feeling, to enjoy an Alpina car and to be convinced it should be the right decision.
“For people who maybe have driven BMWs for years but are looking for something more exclusive to stay with the brand and not go elsewhere.”
Mr Bovensiepen added that Alpina had modest ambitions for sales in Australia.
“We are really in the beginning, now we have started with about 20-25 cars (since the launch). I think the next step will be to sell 30-40 cars.
“It is not about numbers in the beginning, it is about brand building and about establishing the brand. Telling the people that this is a top end luxury product.”
Despite BMW’s aggressive push into electrification, Mr Bovensiepen said Alpina customers were not currently pushing for EV or hybrid powertrains.
“Currently still our customers like to accelerate hard and in Germany there is the possibility to go fast on an autobahn. We have … Teslas as well around here. On the German motorway, they go less than 100km/h, they go between 60-70mph. They go slow because the (battery) capacity is not enough.
“Our customer likes to accelerate harder and go faster. So a fully electric Alpina – I don’t think you can conserve battery life and range, we cannot fulfil that expectation of the customer so I think this is very far away, but maybe a hybrid within the next years but it is really dependent.
“Our customers are really the kind of customers (that prefer) six-cylinder engines, or V8 engines, and now the BMW current strategy is four-cylinder hybrids. So probably for us our starting point will be six cylinder.”