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.
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.