BMW may avoid another nasty design debate when its new 3-series sedan debuts next year.
The company's executives have staunchly defended the controversial exterior styling of the 7 and 5 series.
But even CEO Helmut Panke sounded relieved to learn that the 3 series may escape the criticism heaped on its bigger brothers.
BMW released the first pictures of the car, and the reaction seemed pretty good -- or at least there was no uproar.
"None of the design debates were out there," said Panke at BMW's third-quarter results phone conference with analysts.
The automaker shied away from radical styling changes for the 3 series, its biggest seller worldwide.
Automobile magazine, a US car monthly, said on its website: "Note the significantly toned-down flame surfacing' that is BMW star designer Adrian van Hooydonk's hallmark; BMW doesn't want to risk alienating buyers from its bread-and-butter vehicle with too radical a design."
Panke said BMW is optimistic about sales of the new-generation 3 series, although he didn't give projections.
The rear-wheel-drive sedan debuts at the Geneva auto show in March and goes on sale in Europe soon after.
Prices haven't been released, but its increased size and more powerful engines suggest the 3 series is moving upscale. The car will have two new inline six-cylinder engines, a 2.5- and 3.0-liter. The 3.0-liter in the 330i will develop 255hp, 30hp more than the current 3.0 liter engine.
For the first time, BMW will launch a station wagon version, the 3 series Touring, in the same year as the sedan's introduction. Sales of that model will start in October 2005.
A coupe and a four-seater convertible version will follow in 2006 and 2007.