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BMW: Branching out but keeping it simple

Date: 02 September 2014   |   Author:

Another rousing BusinessCar Awards success this year with seven victories is only the beginning for BMW's new fleet boss, who is planning for both model expansion and simplification, and increased customer satisfaction, as Paul Barker discovers

With the never-ending proliferation of new models, new sectors and new niches, there's no such thing as a quiet period for a major manufacturer. And so it has proved for BMW's new general manager corporate sales Matt Bristow, who stepped into the fleet boss role at the beginning of the year following Stephen Chater's promotion to general manager of product and market planning.

Although the core corporate models of 1-series, 3-series and 5-series are largely unchanged this year, there is plenty going on in terms of entering new segments, which creates its own challenges in terms
of addressing the market.

"It'll be a very busy couple of years, with facelifts, new models and replacement models. It's 15 this year and the same again in 2015," Bristow tells BusinessCar. "A couple stand out: the 2-series Active Tourer and the 4-series Gran Coupe. These are the two that we see as having very high relevance and corporate content."

The new niches of these two models - mini-MPV along the lines of a Mercedes B-class and an upper medium four-door coupe aimed at the Audi A5 Sportback - means BMW is hoping to bring new people into the brand, especially with the 2-series Active Tourer.

"It is the first front-wheel drive BMW, and there will be natural appeal to customer groups we have not touched before, with an element from premium competition, but a lot of interest from non-premium brand drivers," explains Bristow. "It will be angled directly to people with family, and historically we have not been able to provide a car with that level of specification and practicality at that price level."

BMW's fleet boss declares that the priority isn't to upgrade people from the 1-series, but to snare those that hadn't previously looked at the brand as an option.

The 4-series Gran Coupe has a different role, attempting to offer existing BMW drivers a new alternative as much as bringing new people into the brand.

"With the success of Efficient Dynamics, people have potentially cycled a number of BMWs, and this is giving someone who has been in 3-series a bit of variation while returning all the driving dynamics and benefits of Efficient Dynamics," explains Bristow. "There will be a bit of that with that car. On paper, the A5 Sportback is the closest competitor - we're particularly pleased with the look and feel of the GC."

The Gran Coupe will bring BMW's upper medium offering to a total of six models across the 3-series saloon, Touring and GT, and the 4-series Coupe, Cabriolet and Gran Coupe, but Bristow says they all have a place in the line-up.

"Each model has its benefit - the GT is higher and has more interior space, Gran Coupe is a coupe platform with five-door practicality, Touring has the traditional boot, saloon is the mainstay, and Coupe and Convertible are a lifestyle choice and depend on choice lists, especially the convertible," he declares. "It's about making sure people are aware of all the nuances."