BMW's MPA line: Zoom, on the cheap
Models aimed at young 'brand ambassadors'
BMW is bringing a new performance line to the United States that gives vehicles more horsepower and a sportier feel.
But the cars won't get the total revamp BMW gives its range-topping M high-performance models with the throaty engines and high price tags.
The M Performance Automobiles, or MPA, lineup debuts with the M235i next month. The 2-series coupe is BMW's new entry car in the United States. It is the successor to the 1-series compact two-door, which has been redesigned and renamed for the 2014 model year.
The MPA models are BMW's attempt to offer the enthusiast a sporty but moderately priced model similar to Audi's S line, which is a step down from its top-tier RS cars.
Nitschke: Cars for daily use
"The tradeoff is the core M models are developed for use on the racetrack, but you can use the car daily," said Friedrich Nitschke, who heads the M subbrand worldwide. "We are not so focused with the MPAs.
"We add horsepower, but in the M we develop our own engine and our own suspension and most of the parts."
BMW launched the MPA models in Europe 18 months ago with four diesel models that did not come to the United States because diesel sales are so low, Nitschke said. The fifth MPA is the gasoline M235i and the first to come stateside.
The MPA models have a sportier interior and performance tuning with a stiffer suspension and beefier brakes. Body work has been added, such as a front apron and door sill strips with aluminum inserts imprinted with M235i.
BMW executives wouldn't give sales targets for the MPA or the less expensive 2-series coupe.
Oliver Ganser, product strategy manager for BMW North America, said about 90 percent of M customers are male, compared with 60 percent for the brand as a whole. They are generally five years younger than customers of the brand as a whole. The average 3-series buyer is 46, he said.
The M235i will draw even younger buyers "who will be brand ambassadors and appeal to the real enthusiasts that we have," Ganser said.
Nitschke would not say whether the United States will get additional MPA models. BMW will gauge how well the M235i sells, he said.
The United States is the M brand's most important market, accounting for 40 percent of worldwide sales, followed by 20 percent in both Germany and the United Kingdom, he said.
Nitschke said BMW sold about 30,000 M cars, including the new performance models, worldwide last year. Sales last year grew 15 percent from a year earlier and are expected to increase even more this year because the redesigned M3 and the M4 go on sale in the spring, he said.
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