BMW Looks to Expand Lineup

BMW has had a pretty good year thus far, with sales up 7.2% in the U.S. But the maker of BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce is facing big challenges from its German competitors Mercedes and Volkswagen (owner of Audi), which are in the midst of massive product revivals.

Norbert Reithofer, BMW’s CEO, plans to keep his company competitive by expanding the model lineups at BMW and Mini and introducing a new brand for its upcoming electric cars.

We’ve already touched on the electric Megacity Vehicle. The model will go on sale sometime in 2013 in the U.S. and could eventually spur a family of electric cars.

The Mini brand will get at least three new models, according to Reithofer. Cooper roadster and coupe versions will come out in the next two years. The third model is the 2011 Mini Countryman, which is the brand’s first four-door vehicle, and goes on sale in the U.S. early in 2011.

Speaking of four doors, BMW’s 6 Series, which is scheduled to be redesigned next year, will probably receive a four-door version if Reithofer has his way. The four-door coupe would compete with the Audi A7 and Mercedes CLS, a type of car BMW currently lacks. It could end up looking similar to the BMW Concept Gran Coupe pictured above.

More controversially, BMW plans to introduce a new front-wheel-drive platform to the BMW brand for its future small-car models. BMW is known for its rear- and all-wheel drive. The brand doesn’t currently have a front-wheel-drive car, so the move should give some BMW loyalists pause. Reithofer told Bloomberg Businessweek that BMW’s small cars will help the brand win over new customers.

All this planning is to maintain BMW’s profitability and its No. 1 luxury-car mantel, something the automaker has owned since 2005. With careful execution, the new entry-level models and brand expansions should allow more car shoppers to consider BMW, but it will require a careful balancing act for the German automaker to maintain its reputation and go down market.

BMW Chief Plans ‘Big Push’ to Fend Off Audi, Mercedes (Bloombery Businessweek)

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