German automaker BMW
will sell a family of small front-drive cars in the U.S., likely launching them in 2012. The report, first published in trade publication Automotive News
, was confirmed to Luxist by company officials.
That the Bavarian car company was developing small front-drive cars was not a secret. But it was an open question as to whether the cars, to be built in Europe, would come to the U.S. BMW has long championed rear-drive cars for its BMW brand, leaving front-drive cars to its MINI
brand. But BMW's desire for global sales growth, combined with the need to sell more smaller, fuel efficient cars to meet toughening fuel economy standards, forced the company's hand.
BMW has studied the problem for years. At one time, it considered buying Swedish car company Volvo
, the vehicles of which are front-drive. But BMW, stung by a disastrous and costly acquisition of the British automaker Rover MG in the 1990s, was gun-shy about acquiring another company.
Pricing of the cars in the U.S. would be expected to be around $28,000 and up.
Initial sales projections of the front-drive small cars, which will be powered by four cylinder engines, is about 100,000 worldwide. But that number will surely grow once BMW gets comfortable selling the line in different markets.
BMW already has a 1-Series lineup that is built on its smallest rear-drive chassis. The name of the small front-wheel-drive lineup has not been divulged and may not have even been decided yet.