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From 1 to 7 Series: BMW Group's Klaus Fröhlich on the Automaker's Future

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 6/11/2015 Paul Horrell

Klaus Fröhlich represents continuity in BMW engineering. Made board member last year, he was previously in charge of development of all cars up to the 5 Series in size. So what are his priorities now that he has the big chair in engineering?


"It's no news for me," he says. "I was part of the game in the next-generation of RWD cars, too. I think you must squeeze out a specific character from each car. Look at the 3 Series Gran Tourer and the M235i. They come from the same rolling chassis, but they feel like cars from a different planet. We're good at that. 'Modularity' sounds like engineering language, but we must emotionalize it."

From 1 to 7 Series: BMW Group's Klaus Fröhlich on the Automaker's Future

Read about the redesigned 2016 BMW 7 Series HERE.

He says BMW and Mini are working toward just two architectures, or "clusters," between them. Both have the facility for 2WD or AWD. One is transverse-engine, mainly FWD, and the other longitudinal, mainly RWD. "The front-wheel drive one is from the X1 down to the Mini," he says. "Those cars need different axle positions, bulkhead heights, hip points. Then we have the RWD cluster from the 7 Series down to the 1 Series. The powertrain is always in the same position — the position of the flywheel. But you can change the width, wheelbase, rear-axle type — a luxury one for the 7 Series and one that's more space-efficient for the 3 Series Touring."

There is a new 7 Series this year. Does it represent a wholesale renewal for that RWD cluster? "Yes, it's the first derivative," he says. "It will be seen in the future 5 Series, 3 Series, etc. The body can be very specific. The 7 Series uses carbon fiber, magnesium, die-cast aluminum, and hot-formed steel. Some axle parts are common among series, but the body will change materials." They can't afford to give the big sellers such exotic materials.

Will the next 1 Series hatchback be built off the front-drive or rear-drive architecture? All its rivals are now FWD, after all. "If rear drive, we would lose advantages of luggage space," he says. "But if one sort of customer wants space, he can get the [FWD minivan-esque] 2 Series Active Tourer. The 1 Series is about conquest sales, so it has to be a true BMW. We don't have to decide until the end of this year."

This new RWD cluster has been designed for BMW's alternative powertrains, including the Power eDrive system previewed last year. It's important that the factories can do this easily — to react to changing demand — when the volume growth of electrified vehicles is so unpredictable. "In the U.S. we have a mandatory roadmap," he says. "In Europe it will be very slow because there's limited regulatory support. In other regions it could change dramatically. For example, if you need a PHEV to get a license plate in China."

Klaus Frohlich© Provided by MotorTrend Klaus Frohlich Does he see BMW's gasoline-car customers subsidizing uneconomic EVs? "We have to make them cost-effective by engineering, but we also have to make them emotional," he says. "They have to have performance. An i3 has 170-hp like a MINI Cooper S. Our first PHEV was the i8."

Fröhlich has been involved from the beginning with BMW's cooperation with Toyota, which covers fuel cells, among other things. How's it going? "I'd say [mass-market] fuel cells are beyond 2025. Every three to five years you get a new generation, and we need two more generations, both for lowered cost and for power density and cold-weather [robustness]."

But enthusiasts want to know about the BMW-Toyota sports car cooperation. "I know what I want: a really sharp, sporty Z4 successor," he says. "I want to make this happen. And I know the elements it must use." Sound like he wants BMW elements, but he won't say yet.

2016 BMW 435I ZHP Coupe Badge And Grille© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 BMW 435I ZHP Coupe Badge And Grille

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