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Paris show: BMW ute ruled out

No go: Several BMW executives have been pushing for a BMW ute, but it has been knocked on the head by development chief Klaus Froehlich.

BMW R&D boss says pick-up case not viable – and ‘all-terrain’ wagons off agenda too

BMW logo3 Oct 2018

By TIM NICHOLSON in PARIS

A BMW-BADGED pick-up to rival the Mercedes-Benz X-Class has been ruled out by the Bavarian brand’s global R&D chief, Klaus Froehlich, who this week revealed that the potential sales volume in the premium ute segment was simply too small to make the program profitable. 

A number of BMW executives, including former BMW Group Australia CEO Marc Werner and Hendrik von Kuenheim, who was BMW’s top executive for the Asia-Pacific region, have previously pushed BMW AG in Munich for a pick-up to be added to the line-up.

 
However, Mr Froehlich, who is the board member responsible for development, told Australian journalists at the Paris motor show that the lack of opportunity in the market, and the limitations of the company’s vehicle platforms, meant a ute program was not viable.
 
“If you look at the segment of pick-up trucks in general, it is very much that utilities at medium price points are very, very low,” he said. 

“To do a proper pick-up you need a ladder-frame architecture. If you do a monocoque body style, this is very much compromised. And this is the reason why Daimler uses the Nissan platform and puts a Daimler logo on it. We will never (do) badge engineering; it would be a BMW.

 

Left: BMW Group global R&D chief Klaus Froehlich

 

“So the market is big (but) the premium side of that market is extremely small. It was never profitable. There were only a few regions of the world, Australia is one of them, South Africa and certain areas of the States where they have F150s.

 

“So I have only two architectures (UKL and CLAR) and I do not get a proper pick-up truck out of it. And every business case we have calculated so far … it was not relevant for us.”

 

Mr Froehlich dismissed the suggestion that BMW’s partnership with Japanese giant Toyota on the Z4/Supra sportscars could possibly spawn a shared pick-up.

 

“Honestly, for us the market segment is too small because we are at the higher price end of the pick-up segment,” he said.

 

“On Toyota, yes we have a co-operation on fuel cells where they are the senior partner. And you can be sure on the sportscar project, we were senior partners, to make it crystal clear.”

 

Mr Froehlich also denied that a more car-like monocoque pick-up based on its medium-to-large CLAR platform would work.

 

“There is no market. I have no market potential being given. I did the strategy, I did pick-ups several times and I got only very low volumes. And if you look at the current Mercedes (X-Class) figures, I think so far the run rate is less than 4000 cars a month,” he said.

 

“Okay, yes, if that car is a success let’s talk in 12 months. Worldwide they sell less than 4000 cars a month – unbelievably low, that volume, even though they have quite aggressive prices.

 

“I see no evidence that we can ever do a good proposition of that.”

 

Meanwhile, Mr Froehlich also poured cold water on the potential for a higher-riding crossover version of its forthcoming new-generation 3 Series Touring (wagon) or the current 5 Series Touring.

 

BMW’s rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz both have jacked-up wagon offerings, including the A4 and A6 Allroad and E-Class All-Terrain respectively.

 

“Yes, we have considered,” he said. “Honestly, we already bring 10 different cars each year to the dealerships. And the customers and the dealers say, ‘So many derivatives, all changes all the time.’ So we see this small segment not as sufficient for us.

 

“Because if you look at the SAVs, X1 or X3, they are driving now so dynamically that it is a niche in a niche. It is not worth the effort to bring more complexity.

 

“And the other thing, I made this car (3 Series) centre of gravity low because it is a 3 Series, I have a problem to lift it up just so it looks different.”


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