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      02-01-2012, 01:40 PM   #1
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Thumbs up Ex VP BMW Product Development Talks On Development Process, M, Turbos, Competition

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Turns out that my aunt met recently a former high school classmate of hers at their reunion a few months ago. My aunt (and late mother) attended a "German School" here a long time ago. Well, long story short a german classmate of my aunt returned to live in Germany after that and ended up as a VP of Product Development at BMW AG. He just retired at 60 last December.

He is visiting Mexico and I had the opportunity to chat with him and invite him to our monthly BMW club meet here. He shared some interesting insight with me that I think is fun to share with you guys.

About him:
  • Worked for 23 years at BMW
  • Headed development of the previous-gen X3 and the current-gen 6 series coupe and convertible.
  • Headed the BMW Hydrogen initiative and was responsible for building 100 7 serie Hydrogen capable cars.

About development of cars at BMW in general:
  • The process usually takes 60 months in total. 30 months to design the general car and mostly to develop the business case for it. 30 months to actually get all the technical development, tooling development and testing done.
  • Every model development is reported to BMW´s board about 5-6 times in the 30 month period.
  • You need to test the car in at least one hot summer location/one extreme winter. Cars can get shipped to many places in the world to achieve this.
  • One "large group" within BMW shares a lot of work on the 5,6 & 7 series (including GT). Another works on the 1 & 3 series and yet another on the X5/X6. Didn´t ask about where the X1/3 fall now that I think about them. Or the Z4. Or the MINI.
  • Very extensive testing is done at the Nurburgring. He has a special license that is needed when the car companies rent the car and close it down for testing.
  • The M division is now getting to work on their models earlier in the process, sometimes "in parallel" with regular series development. This was not the case before but BMW wants to reduce "lead time" to market for the M cars. The M division is basically free to do as it wishes with engine, suspension, body parts, etc (not chassis). However M cars need their own business case and should stand by themselves financially.

About the current 6 series:
  • The 6 convertible was launched first because the end of the development period and (launch) of the car was synced to Q1 and it was best to sell the convertible in the hot months in the northern hemisphere.
  • The main market for the 6 series is the U.S.
  • The EPS has been tuned on purpose to feel as soft as it feels. BMW feels that not all cars should be targeted to the enthusiast market as that represents a small part of their client base. It is not a limitation of the system itself, he says you can tune it with software to provide whatever level of feel you want to achieve for the car.
  • Proud of having launched fully LED headlights on the 6 series.
  • Funny anecdote: during the press launch in South Africa one journalist spent 20 minutes plus stuck on an uphill climb behind a truck at low speed. Thing is, for the whole time he kept the engine boiling at 6,000 revs behind the truck. So eventually he pulls out to pass and the overheated engine goes into limp mode immediately and the car loses power for the pass. No accident but this journalist was very angry. It is not easy to tell the guy that he can´t drive and that you shouldn´t stay at 6,000 revs for 20 minutes. In any case, BMW later duplicates the "issue" and decides to modify the limp mode software so that the car will shift much earlier (to protect itself) but not cut power (so that you can still pull off a pass, especially with the torque of the V8 biturbo).

About the Hydrogen 7:
  • 100 cars were built
  • The plan was to drive each one for 80,000 km and then scrap it to learn about the technology. 3 they kept and are still in use and working fine.
  • The hydrogen tank alone cost more than 100,000 euros per car. It was completely bespoke as nothing existed at the time that met the safety requirements. Many other bespoke specific parts were designed and built for these cars.
  • All cars had very sophisticated telemetry that allowed BMW to check continually on their status from a central command center - for safety.
  • The Hydrogen tank needed to be kept below -230 C at all times to keep the liquified Hydrogen
  • The project was started when BMW thought that "peak oil" would be reached within the past decade. Peak oil is when the rythm of consumption per year surpasses the rate at which the oil companies add reserves. This hasn´t happened yet and it looks like we will still have oil for a while so the project is in the back-burner until it may make economic sense in the future
  • Hydrogen is an energy carrier only, more akin to a battery than to gasoline which is an energy container.

About the X3 (previous gen)
  • It was an interesting project because BMW did not have enough manufacturing capacity at the time and subcontracted the manufacturing to Magna-Steyr.

About a possible plant in Mexico:

BMW considered the option but the current levels of insecurity here are playing a big part in discouraging the investment.


About turbo cars overheating at altitude (this came up because I mentioned the new F10 M5 overheating at the track here):
  • Shouldn't happen for an M5
  • However, keeping the turbo engine cool at altitude is a special challenge. Basically because, at altitude, an N/A engine will produce less power than at sea level (and thus less heat) and that is proportional to the reduced cooling capacity of the whole system because of the thinner air (which can carry less heat to cool radiators, etc). However, a turbo engine will basically produce the same power at altitude as it does at sea level, thus the same heat that now has to be dealt with with radiators being cooled by the thinner air at altitude. And this costs a lot of money that may not be justified for the very small percentage of customers that see track conditions at altitude. Long story short: I may be screwed if I want to track the next M3 in Mexico City. (I hope not as the 1M has no problems here and the M3 won't be anywhere near as heavy as the M5).
About the competition
  • BMW "main" competitor in internal discussions used to be MB. Not anymore.
  • The main "worry" is Audi mostly because of the purchasing power of VW as a group which allows Audi to get better pricing from suppliers. This is what keeps BMW working extra-hard today to stay leaders in their segment.
  • Little known fact: BMW sells more xDrive cars than Audi sells Quattro
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      02-01-2012, 04:45 PM   #2
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Very interesting
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      02-01-2012, 09:17 PM   #3
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Great piece of information thank you for sharing!
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      02-07-2012, 11:30 AM   #4
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Nice, thanks for the detailed write-up and easy read. I appreciate you sharing.
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      02-07-2012, 11:41 AM   #5
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Wow, that last fact is a surprise given Audi's latest commercials ("Quattrrrooooo!!") saying Audi has the world's top selling luxury AWD system. It's all in the fine print, I guess.
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      02-07-2012, 11:42 AM   #6
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Ton of cool info, thanks for sharing!


Quote:
Originally Posted by BMW M Power Mexico View Post
[*]Little known fact: BMW sells more xDrive cars than Audi sells Quattro[/list]
I'm struggling with this one though.. how is that even possible?
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      02-07-2012, 11:51 AM   #7
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What an amazing person to meet! Thanks for sharing.
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      02-07-2012, 11:52 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BAMxi View Post
It's all in the fine print, I guess.
Read the fine print of the SH-AWD that Acura sells. It can transfer "100%" of the available torque to either rear wheel. But in all reality it can only put 40% of the torque to the rear axle, thus only 40% of the torque is pushed to an outside rear wheel.
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      02-07-2012, 11:58 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nandrega View Post
Ton of cool info, thanks for sharing!




I'm struggling with this one though.. how is that even possible?
Most Audi's sold in Europe are FWD, even the last gen A8 was offered as 'frontrak'. I suspect Audi sell more Quattro A4's, A6's and A8's than BMW sell xDrive 3's, 5's and 7's... but I'd guess the X1, X3, X5 and X6 sell more than the Q3, Q5 and Q7...

.. either way, I'd doubt there is much in it.

The important thing is BMW sells more RWD cars than Audi (and less FWD cars!)
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      02-07-2012, 12:04 PM   #10
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awesome! Thanks for posting
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      02-07-2012, 12:23 PM   #11
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Great Contribution!
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      02-07-2012, 12:24 PM   #12
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On a side note: It's one major goal of BMW to reduce the time of the Product Development process significantely.
Therefore the process by far doesn't take 60 months at BMW anymore.

For example the whole development of the 6 Series Gran Coupe was successfully finished in less than 4 years.
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      02-07-2012, 12:25 PM   #13
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Great thread.

Thank you for the info........


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      02-07-2012, 12:30 PM   #14
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Made the front page! Cool!
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      02-07-2012, 12:38 PM   #15
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Well, FI engines are better at higher altitudes because they dont suffer the power loss of NA engines. They merely require better cooling systems because the air is less effective at cooling the radiator. It's just a matter of installing an aftermarket cooling system or BMW offering an extra-cost High Altitude package/integrating it into an existing optional package (such as a hot-weather or towing package).
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      02-07-2012, 12:45 PM   #16
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Nice read, thanks!
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      02-07-2012, 12:55 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Park2670
Quote:
Originally Posted by BAMxi View Post
It's all in the fine print, I guess.
Read the fine print of the SH-AWD that Acura sells. It can transfer "100%" of the available torque to either rear wheel. But in all reality it can only put 40% of the torque to the rear axle, thus only 40% of the torque is pushed to an outside rear wheel.
Haha nice. So pretty much you can say whatever you want in ads.

BMWs can fly and don't need fuel!*

*when careening off cliffs, turned off. European models only. EPA estimates.
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      02-07-2012, 01:35 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BAMxi View Post
Haha nice. So pretty much you can say whatever you want in ads.

BMWs can fly and don't need fuel!*

*when careening off cliffs, turned off. European models only. EPA estimates.
^^HAHAHAHA
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      02-07-2012, 02:10 PM   #19
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What a great write-up. Thank you for sharing.

I find it odd that it takes up to 30 months to generate a business case for a car, though. For many established segments, developing a case should be a no-brainer.

30 months for actual product development sounds accurate, but BMW needs to be reducing some of its bureaucratic red tape when it comes to green-lighting production of its products.
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      02-07-2012, 02:12 PM   #20
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Great Post.. thanks for sharing!
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      02-07-2012, 02:29 PM   #21
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Nice read
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      02-07-2012, 03:05 PM   #22
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Thanks for sharring with us.

I really have to chuckle... "Little known fact: BMW sells more xDrive cars than Audi sells Quattro"!
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