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by Jay Traugott
Big changes are about to take place at BMW as the brand begins a shift towards front-wheel-drive models.
BMW has long been known as a performance brand with a penchant for luxury and advanced technologies. Along with its high-performance M division, it has become the benchmark in many segments, including sport sedans, coupes, convertibles and crossovers of various shapes and sizes. But one element has combined all of its cars through the decades: rear-wheel-drive. That's apparently all about to change, however, as word has it that the German automaker is proposing to launch up to 20 new front-drive models in coming years.
Don't think of this as simply an expansion of its Mini brand, however. No, this plan is much more extensive and will include many BMW-badged models as well. So far, up to12 new FWD BMWs and Minis have been approved for production, all of which will utilize the same new platform that will underpin the new Mini hatchback. One new BMW will be a production version of the Concept Active Tourer that was unveiled at September's Paris Motor Show to take on the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class. The philosophy behind the change stems from a marketing and customer shift to smaller cars, hoping that downsizing will help them save money at the pumps.
Europe is currently leading this global trend and evidence of its influence is already being seen in the US and China, two markets that were once heavily dominated by large sedans and SUVs. These new models will slot below the 3 Series in terms of size and a BMW official has confirmed that the 3. 5 and 7 Series sedans will remain rear-drive, as per tradition.