BMW’s M Division Eyeing Standalone Models and It’s About Time
Ahead of the BMW X3 M launch, BMW’s Markus Flasch told attendees the company’s M Division could produce something altogether unique.
Recent years has given rise to a more ubiquitous BMW M-badge. It’s been slapped on crossovers, wagons, SUVs, and random diesel sedans to such an extent that nearly every BMW is launched as an M-Performance variant; just take a look at the jumble of letters that make up the X4 M40i. As such, this dilution has some believing it has diminished M’s unique performance draw. BMW, apparently, is aware of this and are now actively looking into whether or not a standalone M model—ala Mercedes-AMG—makes sense. The Drive just has one thing to say; it’s about time.
The news came to light when speaking ahead of the X3 M and X4 M launch in New York, BMW M Division boss Markus Flasch mentioned to Car Sales, that “We are investigating M variants that may also be standalone, that don’t [necessarily] have a predecessor.” A bold proclamation that was later enhanced by Flasch telling the outlet that under his direction, BMW’s M Division was looking at producing more than one M-specific car. Details, however, are few and far between as when Flasch was pressed on his fervor-sparking comments, he said, “we can’t talk about it.”
M Division’s interest in an in-house model was likely piqued when Mercedes-Benz announced its quasi-separation of its standard luxury-focused Benzs and the tire-immolator AMGs. Since AMG was given room to breathe, the highly acclaimed tuning arm has built the superb AMG GT, a more user-friendly AMG GT 4-Door, and is preparing to deliver the Formula 1-derived AMG One hypercar. And while these cars have preserved the exclusiveness and heritage of AMG, they’ve also netted Daimler bucketloads of cash and publicity. It’s not hard to see why M is now looking to cop the formula.
As to what we’ll see if a bespoke M ever makes it to production, though Flasch was cagey ahead of the launch, his recent interview with Autoblog may point us in the direction M Division is favoring; i.e. electrification. According to the interview, when asked how he wants to mark his caretakership of the M Division, the performance boss said, “In the past, we have had the era of launching turbocharging and all-wheel drive, and if we look forward, my years will be the era of the brand's electrification.” Flasch later goes on to say M is looking at everything from mild hybrids, more performance-oriented hybrids, and full-electric sports and supercars.
M hasn’t had real leadership in recent years. As BMW has stripped it of its exclusivity by branding nearly every model with an M badge, it’s lost its luster, pedigree, and you can see the decline in the brand’s models. M has become purely a marketing term for BMW. Though Flasch’s ideas about electrification and all-wheel drive will likely irk many of the brand’s loyalists, the M boss seems to have the determination to revive its hallowed status. It may be different than many might hope to see, but it’s a clearer direction than most have had while at M’s helm.
A timeline for a forthcoming bespoke M model is still intangible. We’ve seen no camouflaged M mules running around apart from the forthcoming 2020 M3. And Flasch’s statements seem to point to the idea of a purpose-built M still being in its more nascent stages, perhaps still just a design concept worked up by one of BMW’s designers. Maybe a 3-D rendering, maybe a clay mockup. Further, it’s also still unclear what layout the car would take. Flasch has spoken about his desire for a halo model in a similar vein to the mid-engine design of the i8. In fact, one of BMW’s board members recently disclosed that we could be seeing something like a McLaren competitor from the brand. However, we could also see a heavily hybridized four-door model come to fruition as well and be based on BMW’s carbon fiber chassis used in the latest generation 7 Series. That said, we’re still likely years away from seeing anything in the flesh. That said, it finally seems that M is in capable hands. Hopefully, our faith is restored soon.