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Heritage and tech to aid BMW M growth

History repeating: BMW’s M2 Coupe has been described as a spiritual successor to the E46 M3.

BMW’s M brand to expand presence through past, present and future focus

BMW logo28 Jun 2016

By TIM NICHOLSON in HUNGARY

BMW’s M performance-car division will grow globally on the back of strong product offerings that remain faithful to the heritage of the famed brand, according to a senior M executive.

The M division has officially operated since 1972, initially building racecars before developing road-going performance cars and becoming one the most recognised and respected performance-car brands in the world.

Last year, 62,400 M and M Performance models were sold across the globe, just shy of the 68,875 vehicles sold by its direct German rival, Mercedes-AMG, in the same period.

While the company has marketing strategies in place to increase brand awareness, BMW M area manager of sales Joerg Bartels said it will grow its market presence primarily through its line-up of performance-focused models.

“First of all, the cars, as such, build the brand,” he told GoAuto at a drive event for the M2 Coupe in Hungary.

“If you drive the M2 I think this is really a car that sharpens the brand. We offer special versions where we also show our potential and the car’s potential like the M4 GTS where we have achieved a lap time at the Nurburgring of 7:28, which is extremely fast, and also we have a close cooperation with motorsport.

That’s the main ways of how we sharpen the brand.”

Mr Bartels said the company was always clear on maintaining elements of its heritage, while developing new performance technologies for the future, something it has highlighted in its promotion of the M2 Coupe as a spiritual successor to the E46 M3.

 center imageLeft: BMW M area manager of sales Joerg Bartels.

“The idea of what an M car is has not changed over the decades. It is still the same ideas. So from the beginning on, an M was not a tuning car, an M was a fully racetrack-capable car.

“We used parts of the M4 DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) car for homologation. From the beginning on, racetrack capability was a point but of course also daily driving because we needed to achieve a certain amount of sales.

“If you check the technology we have had in M3s over the decades, you see almost everything is still alive, starting with electronic damper control, which you could get in the E30. Four valves per cylinder and inside cooling of brake discs for example.”

While comfort and safety features in M cars has changed dramatically over the years, Mr Bartels said the company proudly highlights technologies it has developed that have been a constant in its various models.

“A handful of technologies were displaced by different technologies, let’s say naturally aspirated engine to turbo engine, but the majority of tech is still there. Therefore it is a continuous story and just the demands from customers in terms of safety and comfort has changed over decades. Nobody wants to open a window manually anymore.

“On the other side, also the lap time has changed, so the cars have become faster. This is a story we will continue in the future so the next generation will be faster on the Nurburgring than the previous generation. Again, (they will be) the fastest car in the segment.”

Mr Bartels said the M division keeps an eye on what competitor brands are doing – the likes of Mercedes-AMG and Audi Sport, among others – but it always aims to be seen as a leader by being first to market with various technologies or features.

“Of course we look at competitors closely and see what they are doing, but let’s say if we talk about future cars, it is not enough to see what the others are doing. If you want to stay in the lead you need to be the first to do something.”

Mr Bartels added that the M division has a level of autonomy that allows it to make decisions on products “independently” of BMW, but ultimately sign off has to come from the German giant’s board of directors.

There are now more M models on offer than ever before, including the M3 sedan, as well as the related M4 Coupe and Convertible, M6 range and a pair of hi-po X5 and X6 M SUVs, as well as a range of warmed-up M Performance variants.

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