From Ferrari’s manual-free pledge to BMW’s move to front-wheel-drive, the auto industry is breaking down formerly untouchable barriers left and right. The latest: longtime four-wheel-drive specialist Land Rover will build a front-drive version of its forthcoming compact “SUV Coupe” known as the LRX. The new model, which debuts at this fall’s Paris Auto Show, will generally be available with all-wheel-drive, but after launch a front-drive base version will become available. Though Landie had previously foresworn FWD models as being incompatible with the brand’s values, there’s been a change of heart and according to Autocar, the Tata Motors-owned marque
cannot ignore the growth of the two-wheel-drive SUV segment
There’s been no word thus far about the LRX’s availability in the US, but if it does arrive stateside don’t expect FWD versions to be imported. And don’t expect the LRX codename to grace its rear deck either: five names are said to be under consideration for the model, one of which is “Land Rover Compact” and none of which is “LRX.”
While the autoblogosphere frets bout whether BMW drivers can tell which wheels drive their cars, the real news in the BMW-goes-FWD storyline is the impact that the sea change in brand strategy is expected to have on volume. Automotive News [sub] reports that BMW is developing a new family of modular gas and diesel engines, which are intended “primarily for BMW’s new front-wheel-drive architecture, but the powerplants also will be used in the automaker’s rear-wheel-drive cars,” according to CEO Norbert Reithofer. And the volume at which this new family of three, four and six-cylinder engines will be produced is one of the early indications of where BMW is going with its FWD expansion. Today, BMW sells just under 1.3m vehicles worldwide. That’s fewer cars than will be powered by this new family of engines alone, which Reithofer says will motivate 1.5m vehicles worldwide. Considering BMW’s goal is to sell 2m vehicles of all its brands by 2020, it’s clear that much of that growth will be made possible by new FWD-inclusive drivetrain technology. (Read More…)
Debates over the relative values of front-, rear- and all-wheel-drive have raged for as long as automotive enthusiasm has existed, and after decades of argument, the only thing that anyone seems to agree on is that the the drive wheels matter. But do they? According to Automotive News Europe [sub]‘s Luca Ciferri,
More proof that customers don’t care about the difference between rwd and fwd came last week when BMW revealed that 80 percent of its 1-series owners believe the car is fwd
Ciferri wrote this in the “blog” section of the Automotive News [sub] website, and didn’t link to any sources to back his claim up. Meanwhile, a search of German news sources has failed to pull up stories that link to a source other than Ciferri’s blog post. Though Ciferri is a respected auto journalist, and we hesitate to accuse him of making this stuff up, there’s a definite chance that this study isn’t all that it seems. After all, Ciferri cites BMW’s research at a time when the Bavarians are developing the first ever FWD car to carry the famed BMW roundel. Though we don’t doubt that many BMW 1-series buyers might not know which wheels drive their cars, the 80 percent number seems suspiciously high. Furthermore, Ciferri doesn’t indicate whether that statistic reflects global customers, European buyers, or the American market. Combined with BMW’s obvious incentives to de-stigmatize front wheel drive, these problems leave us little choice but to take Ciferri’s statistics with a hefty grain of salt.
The NYTimes reports that Norbert Reithofer, CEO of BMW AG, is thinking the unthinkable. Dr Reithofer said at a shareholders’ meeting in Munich: “We are exploring the possibility of developing a joint architecture for the front and four-wheel drive systems of these cars,” WHAT?! An FWD BMW? An act against nature. Say it isn’t so! He didn’t. (Read More…)
As our Brazilian friend Stingray pointed out in today’s Curbside Classic thread, the FWD trucklet isn’t dead… it’s on vacation in South America. And new models are arriving all the time. This May, the popular Brazilian-market models Stingray lists below will be joined by the Peugeot Hoggar Escapade, a 207-based compact truck with the best name to come out of PSA since Bipper Tepee. Fun fact: with a maximum engine displacement of 1.6 liters pulling a 1,650 lb max payload, it actually carries more weight per liter of displacement than the latest generation of the Silverado Heavy Duty (6,335 lbs with the 6.6 liter Duramax).
There are guys at my gym that work out hard, three times a day, chiseling their chests and abs to perfection, compensating for the fact that God didn’t give them High School Musical faces. They are masterpieces of strength, structure – everything other than looks. From now on, I will secretly call them Crosstours.
After the 1 series, BMW pretty much committed themselves to the smallest car, because it was the smallest number, they were going to make under the BMW marque. Or did they? You see, there is actually another number lower than 1 and BMW plan to release a series of cars based on that number. Now we’ve known this for some time, but Car-Chat.info put forward a very real scenario. Since the 0 series will be smaller than the 1 series, that means it will go head to head with BMW’s other marque, the Mini. Now, one could be optimistic and say that 2 cars under different brands could grab a bigger slice of the market or, one could be realistic and say that cannibalisation is afoot. BMW aren’t stupid, which brings forward the very real possibility that BMW could phase out the Mini brand. At top production rates, Mini produce 240000 vehicles a year. That’s niche levels. And who wouldn’t want a BMW badge instead of a Mini? Yes, there may be a few “Italian Job” fans upset and a couple of “Germans kill iconic brand” headlines in the UK gutter press, but when you think about it, it kind of makes sense. At least as long as a front-wheel drive BMW doesn’t strike you as too blasphemous (and BMW doesn’t seem to have a problem crossing that Rubicon). So now TTAC posits a question to the B&B: Does the world really need Mini? Are we hanging onto a brand which doesn’t fit viably in the today’s market? Or is an FWD BMW the real mistake?
Enthusiasts have been adamant that GM’s decision to sell a police-only version of its RWD global Lumina platform (Holden Statesman) creates a fantastic opportunity for GM to return the Impala to its RWD roots. Such a decision would seem to make sense from a business perspective as well, adding civilian sales volume to what otherwise would be a fleet-only platform. No such luck though. Bob Lutz tells Inside Line that the forthcoming Impala replacement (due in 2014) will be based on GM’s global FWD midsized architecture (Epsilon II). The rationale for this decision appears to be fuel efficiency: Lutz mentions the need to compete with the Ford Taurus’s efficiency achievements as a factor in the decision. By going FWD, GM also hopes to be able to shoehorn the two-mode hybrid system from the discontinued Vueick CUV into a future Impala. In addition to forgoing an opportunity to leverage the Caprice police special architecture, this decision also adds to GM’s epic midsize FWD sedan bloat. From the Malibu to the Buick LaCrosse and Regal, from Impala to the Cadillac XTS “flagship,” GM’s default decision seems to be to base all of its sedans on a single platform, making pricing and content differentiation an ongoing challenge to its product strategy. Vive le sameness!