UPDATED: 8/7/14 12:41 pm US ET - adds photo gallery
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Would any self-respecting BMW enthusiast be caught dead hauling cargo around town in an open-bed 3-Series?
It sounds like a remote long-shot for the product planners at BMW. But the German carmaker is taking a keen interest in a pickup derivation of the X3 unveiled at the seminars Sunday night by engineering graduate students from Clemson University.
BMW’s U.S. marketing, finance and engineering departments directed the Clemson team to create a vehicle capable of hauling potted orange trees in the back -- but without losing the luxury interior, ride and performance of a BMW sports car, says Ashish Dubey, the project’s manager at Clemson’s International Center for Automotive Research.
BMW insisted that any part or material used in the project must be BMW-approved.
BMW also urged the student team to create a low-cost manufacturing plan to produce up to 5,000 of the vehicles, and to bring the hypothetical model derivation in at no more than $8,000 above the current X3 sticker price.
The project is the latest chapter in Clemson’s ongoing Deep Orange project, to tap auto engineering student creativity to propose next-generation products.
The grad students devised a factory plan that would cost BMW only about $10.2 million in assembly line and process alterations to build the concept. They also proposed a low-cost method of altering the existing X3’s roof line and body shape by using 3-D printing of structural materials.
“It’s a BMW with a trunk available for hauling,” Dubey says, “but still fit for speed and performance.”
BMW is not the only automaker who noticed the project. After completing the BMW project and receiving his master’s degree from Clemson, Dubey was hired as a product design engineer by Chrysler.