BMW banking on carbon fiber costs to broaden M range
The first on the docket, according to BMW North America CEO (and former M chief) Ludwig Willisch in speaking with TheDetroitBureau.com, will be an M7. The Bavarian automaker has long resisted going down the same road as the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG and Audi S8, but that's slated to change in the near future. But while the X5 M and X6 M have been hot sellers, Willisch rules out the possibility of M versions of the smaller X1 and X3 crossovers, as well as bringing the M550d xDrive super-diesel sport-wagon (or presumably its crossover counterparts) to North America.
Of course BMW could opt to apply a similar sub-M formula to the 7 Series like it's doing with the M135i. Either way, BMW is counting on the reduced cost and labor involved in manufacturing carbon fiber components for the viability of both its performance vehicles and its environmentally-friendly i range.
As our compatriots at the Bureau note, the engineers at McLaren needed some 3,000 hours of labor to produce the carbon fiber components for the McLaren F1 over a decade ago. By the time it started building the SLR for Mercedes-Benz, it had cut that down to 400 hours. And with the new MP4-12C, it takes them less than 6 hours. As a result, costs have come down too, resulting in a lower street price for each successive model: $1 million, $400,000 and $250,000, respectively. And that's a model on which other automakers – like BMW – can seek to capitalize.
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