Thursday, May 31, 2012
Report: BMW banking on carbon fiber costs to broaden M range
There once was a time when BMW only produced a handful of its models in high-performance M guise. There was the M3, the M5, and that was pretty much it. Now, however, it offers M models based on the 1 Series, 3 Series, 5 Series, 6 Series, X5 and X6. And that's only expected to grow.
The first on the docket, says BMW North America CEO (and former M chief) Ludwig Willisch speaking with TheDetroitBureau.com, will be an M7. The Bavarian automaker has long resisted going down the same road as the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG and Audi S8, but that's slated to change in the near future. But while the X5 M and X6 M have been hot sellers, Willisch rules out the possibility of M versions of the smaller X1 and X3 crossovers, as well as bringing the M550d xDrive super-diesel-sport wagon (or presumably its crossover counterparts) to North America.
Of course, BMW could opt to apply a similar sub-M formula to the 7 Series like it's doing with the M135i. Either way, BMW is counting on the reduced cost and labor involved in manufacturing carbon fiber components for the viability of both its performance vehicles and its environmentally friendly i range.
As our compatriots at the Bureau note, the engineers at McLaren needed some 3,000 hours of labor to produce the carbon fiber components for the McLaren F1 over a decade ago. By the time it started building the SLR for Mercedes-Benz, it had cut that down to 400 hours. And with the new MP4-12C, it takes them less than six hours. As a result, costs have come down too, resulting in a lower street price for each successive model: $1 million, $400,000 and $250,000, respectively. And that's a model on which other automakers - like BMW - can seek to capitalize.Permalink | Email this | Comments