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BMW to reduce number of platforms

BMW said its launching an effort to consolidate the number of platforms that the company's vehicles - which include models under the MINI and Rolls-Royce brands - are based upon.

By Viknesh VijayenthiranGuest blogger / February 7, 2014

BMW said the company's consolidation efforts will improve efficiency and offer greater flexibility in manufacturing.

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The BMW Group is the latest automaker to announce a plan to consolidate platforms used across different models and brands. The move, says BMW, will help operations remain profitable during volatile periods and improve the chances of reaching a previously stated goal of two million unit sales by 2016. Last year the group, which also includes the MINI and Rolls-Royce brands, sold 1.96 million units.

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The information was revealed by BMW development boss Herbert Diess, who spoke recently with Automotive News (subscription required). The plan, Diess revealed, is part of a wide-ranging strategy at BMW referred to as Strategy Number One.

The first phase of Strategy Number One has already been completed: introducing a new three-cylinder engine family and launching the i3 battery-powered electric car. The next phase is taking place now and covers the launch of BMW’s first UKL-based models.

UKL is BMW’s front-wheel-drive platform which will underpin its third-generation MINI family and some BMW-branded models like the upcoming 2-Series Active Tourer and redesigned 2016 X1. In total, the platform will be used for around 15 models, according to Diess.

BMW is also in the process of developing a modular rear-wheel-drive platform that will eventually be used for all of the automaker’s rear-wheel-drive models and any all-wheel-drive spinoffs. Currently, BMW uses two separate platforms for these models: one for cars the size of the 3-Series and smaller and another for everything bigger. This new platform is expected to debut in the redesigned 2016 7-Series. Note, this may explain why BMW is partnering with Toyota to develop a platform for its future sports car, likely to a replacement for the Z4, which will need a dedicated platform.

Going forward, BMW's own modular rear-wheel-drive platform will also be used for future Rolls-Royce models, but there will be plenty of differences between the cars. For example, future BMWs will stick to steel unibody construction while Rolls-Royces will get aluminum spaceframe, Diess explained.

The final phase of Strategy Number One is replacing most of the engines used in BMW Group vehicles with units based on a modular design where each of the cylinders have a 500cc combustion chamber. This will be for three-, four- and six-cylinder engines only. According to Diess, the move will offer a level of flexibility BMW has never enjoyed in the past.

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