Detroit Auto Show 2016
Talking about all the M cars with BMW North America CEO Ludwig WillischThe M2 was one of the darlings in Detroit, and BMW's Ludwig Willisch tells us why sports cars are so important to the American market.
Continuing here at the Detroit Auto Show, the North American International Auto Show, here from Road Show at theroadshow.com. We are a two-day old site now, brought to you by CNET, as we brought together all of our automotive assets under Tim Stevens, our editor in chief. And we are pleased to continue now with a talk with Someone very important from BMW. Right, we've seen some impressive BMW reviews at the show thus far. To give us more color on that here's Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW North America, thank you for joining us. My pleasure. Now, we saw two cars unveiled, I got to say my favorite of the two is probably the M2. This is basically bringing the M badge to a bit of a smaller car. Can you walk me through some of the modifications to make The 2 series into a proper M? Well if you just look at it you do see the car has brawn and stands. We actually changed quite a bit of the feet pedals so the car does come along much more dynamically and just looking powerful at stand still. Well then it does have a aluminum suspension that's very close to the one that the M3 and M4 have. It has a 365 horsepower in line six. What else could a proper BMW have? And it goes from 0 to 60 in 4.1 seconds. That's Makes it the most compact, dynamic BMW we have. Actually, our customers have been talking to us for quite a while. At our press conference, we also showed the 1974 BMW 2002 Turbo, so that grandfather to that car, really 170 horsepower, which was incredible for those days. And also, acceleration at the time of seven seconds, that was sports car country where they were in. And now, so 40 years later we come up with the M2 for the first time. We're you really bringing that out to really soften the blow of the turbo chargers in the new car. Because there are some people who complain about having turbos in modern cars. When you drive our cars you don't really feel that there turbo charged. It does have to do with efficiency of the engine. In total, and you can't do without turbocharging in today's world if you wanna have a super efficient engine. And yet, it should rev, which the engine does. X4 M40i was the other unveil. You've done- I thought you said [UNKNOWN], that was a long name. I got it all, didn't I? You did, in the right order. You guys have done all the spade work of really creating a category out of the Out of the sport activity vehicle, that deserves M branding. When the X6 came out, a lot of folks shook their head and go, you're trying to hard, and now you're continuing to push the sport, coop roof line, more performance than practicality, sports activity vehicle. And it seems like it's working. It does work. Of course, it is an itch, but we got really excited after having had the first generation act six in the market. Actually, it exceeded our expectations. So why not try an X four on basis of the X three is doing well and customers again ask for a little bit more sportiness, a little bit more appearance, presence, stance on the road and here we go with 355 horse power and four point seven seconds from zero to 60 and superb road-holding. Also, the suspension has been tweaked. So it is the M40I. And I was one of those skeptics when the X6 came out, but I've spent actually a fair bit of time in the X6M driving around the track in Austin and Blew my mind, absolutely unbelievable. How well such a monster handles on the track was pretty impressive. So the M2's basically a replacement for the old 135 M, and then we've got the new M SUV effectively. How many more Ms are coming? Where can we expect to see an M next, perhaps? Well, not so much in the Near future, with no plans to expand the model lineup right now. I think with the M2, M3, M4, M5, M6, we're doing all right. You've got all your numbers covered at this point. [LAUGH] So, we're also seeing a lot of interest on the i Brand. Here in the United States we've got the I3, which is the fully electric, and then the I8, which is the plug in hybrid sports car. A lot of people are hoping for maybe a sportier, maybe an M version of an I car, having an IM or an MI, or whatever combination that would be, an IM. Well, you might wanna call it I performance car. Sure. We're thinking about that, but nothing has been decided. Now as we look at your role out here, the I cars were also extremely exotic when they first arrived, a few years ago on the auto show circuit. You're starting to build that out to not just be a matter of efficiency, and power train and performance. In the I 8's case, dramatic lines You've got an interesting message that you're showing off on the I8. A new kind of gesture control. And you're already in your second generation of showing gesture. And you just launched it on the new 7. Why's it so important to get that sort of technology right when you're the ultimate driving machine In order to be focused on what you really want to do driving. Meaning you don't have to look for a button, you don't have to look for any device. It's just there with gesture control of the future, you can have a little resistance on nav screen you can really feel what you're pushing. Because right now what you do is, you go like this, you go like this You go like this, and the car does what it's told to do initially. But in the future, we'll even touch a little airstream that you know you've hit exactly the button that you wanted to hit, rather than being somewhere out there, without feedback, without feedback in front of the dashboard. And you don't initially know if you have Done the right thing. Without taking your eyes off and looking at the dash to see if it got it. A new generation of haptics, mid-air haptics. That's interesting, I hadn't heard that before. Never heard that one before. No, absolutely, especially on a hot day, that sounds pretty nice. But we started with head-up displays so you would not have to take your eyes off Of the windscreen, cuz your major information is there. And now we also don't want you to look for any buttons. We want you to be concentrated on your doing and just go like this and, but you feel that you're touching something. Yeah, interesting. In the very crowded space between BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, and then A tier down Audi but growing. We know the ultimate driving machine mantra but take that apart or take that aside, what is really behind your competitiveness in the sector? When you get right down to it at the every day sales level, what's really making the business work in this country? The enthusiasm about the cars, about the. Fact that we drive differently our cars, even in your driveway you already feel you're sitting in a BMW. It starts with seat, it starts how you grab the steering wheel. Mm-hm. The engine sound if it's not electric, and the precision of the steering that all gives you a different feedback than other cars do. So you could even be blindfolded, You wouldn't be able to identify a BMW without driving. And that's our mantra. And once someone has identified that, and responded to it as a consumer, what do you have to do with pricing and in the show room with that dealer experience? From the idea of I first understand what will it cost, and then the experience I go through. What are you doing there that you think is unique, or gives you an advantage? Well first of all, let the product speak for itself. Sit in the car, hit the accelerator or release the clutch or whatever you need to do to get the thing moving and have the customer experience the drive. See, do I like this, do I don't? Still they The test drive is the most convincing argument that we have in the whole sales process. Okay, so it keeps coming back to ultimate driving machine. Hands on, tactile. Well, obviously it needs to be the ultimate driving machine in its segment. An I3 obviously drives different from an X6 and an X6 drives differently than a 7 series but they're all driver's cars. They're all fun, they're all fun to drive that's the common denominator. Economy has been one of the bigger themes of the show, we have seen some major announcements from Volvo and from Mercedes Benz as well. In the seven series it's beginning to get to the point of autonomer, you can take your hands off the wheel for about for about fifteen seconds if I am remembering correctly. Yeah. What's the next step for BMW beyond that? Is it extending that amount of time? Is it extending the amount of speed? How are we taking the step from there to fully autonomous? Cuz it won't be just an overnight thing. Well, they're obviously quite a few use cases where you think even the ultimate driving machine does not give me that much fun that I wanted To give me. When you are in a traffic situation bumper to bumper, when you wanna park, you get your car out of the garage. And I think we'll see in the not too far distant future, the car will come out of the garage by itself. It will also go back in to the garage by itself. It will also park by itself. It will also be able to Follow the flow of a traffic situation where you're crawling along for maybe even more than 10 minutes or 20 minutes. The car will move on, and you can do your emails or do whatever you want without running any risk that you're not paying attention. The car will do it for you. But once your in a little winding road that Back in Connecticut where I live, you wanna grab that steering wheel and have fun. Absolutely. Last question we have to ask you before you go, what are you driving right now out of the BMW line up? A new 7 Series of course. Of course. Why is there no M7? Your competitors set to have performance models of their top sedans. Wait and see You like it there? I was on end that. That's the right question, good job. [LAUGH] Yeah, very good. Mr Willis thank you for your time. My pleasure.