New BMW R&D Boss Wants More Personality from Future Cars

BMW Vision concept 1 photo
Photo: bmw
This year a couple of big changes will happen at BMW, changes that started back in 2014. The CEO will be retiring and so have other big names that either moved to other manufacturers or simply decided that a simpler life is better for them. A new wave of managers is growing now and Klaus Frölich is one of them.
Starting with 2015 he will take over as the board member responsible for research and development, a seat left vacant by Herbert Diess that joined Volkswagen and the brand’s CEO. Things won’t be easy for Mr. Frolich but he claims that he will do everything in his power to make cars that have more personality.

The reasons behind why this approach is a must are pretty obvious. In the near future, BMW will have only two architectures on which it will be building its cars. There will be the UKL platform that is already in use for the MINI and Active Tourer models and another one called 35up or CLAR (cluster architecture) that will be used for rear-wheel drive cars.

That includes everything from the 3 Series up even though the debate is still heated about the 1 Series and 2 Series models and if they will also retain the RWD setup.

Having so many models use the same underpinnings will bring some challenges, the most important one being figuring out how to make each one special. Therefore, Klaus’ expressed desire isn’t just his own preference but also a must for a brand like BMW that takes pride in how its cars drive.

That could be achieved in a number of ways and the best example would be by altering the way the dampers work but that’s just a small taste of what’s coming. If we had anything to say, we’d make a difference inside the cabin as well as things are starting to get really boring now.

More i cars are surely on the way

There’s yet another platform in production today and that’s a bit more special. We’re talking about the i cars and the i3 and i8 are separate from everything else. Of course, when BMW made them the goal was to bring back profit not lose every cent ever invested. Therefore, an expansion of the i range is not only understandable but also necessary.

“We are now working with the third generation of electric powertrains. The fourth one is under development, and the fifth is in our strategy. You can assume that we won’t wait for other [companies], but drive technological change in an active manner,” he said for Car and Driver.

The same technology that is being developed right now will be used on plug-in hybrid cars starting with the 3 Series LCI models and the upcoming X5 xDrive40e. That’s basically the only way to drop emissions significantly and keep afloat amid ever tightening CO2 emission regulations.

What’s interesting is that Frohlich sees them as evolving to such a degree that internal combustion engines will eventually be restricted to the role of generators, something we can understand but wouldn’t like to see.
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