BMWs ute debate

Case mounts for a pickup wearing the famed propeller badge

GREG KABLE

PRESSURE is mounting on BMW to reconsider findings outlined in a secret internal study, a move that could see it follow Mercedes-Benz into the growing and increasingly luxury-focused ute market.

The study included in a global market strategy paper produced under chairman Norbert Reithofer, who was replaced a year ago by 49-year-old Harald Kruger as part of a generational change singled out the ute as one area of potential growth for the German carmaker.

However, the strategy paper failed to develop into a concrete new-model plan, in part because of heavy investment in BMWs alternative i brand and its carbonfibre i3 and i8.

Now officials in various markets, including Australia and South Africa, have turned up the rhetoric in attempts to convince Kruger to revisit the idea of a ute.

Wheels understands the ute discussions have intensified in recent months, even reaching board level.

BMW Australia managing director Marc Werner told Wheels: A BMW ute is certainly an interesting proposition. We are constantly looking at market trends. We are always on the lookout for market opportunities.

The comments have added fuel to recent rumours that BMW could broaden its model base to include selected commercial-based vehicles for the first time as part of joint-venture operations with

Toyota, with which it is already cooperating on a number of projects, including sports cars and hydrogen fuel-cell technology.

Mercedes-Benz shocked its luxury-car rivals in 2015 by announcing plans to develop a ute based on the Nissan Navara, taking advantage of a component-sharing arrangement with Nissan and its alliance partner, Renault.

But while Mercedes-Benz is heavily represented in both the passenger-car and commercial vehicle sectors, BMWs operations are focused around the passengercar and motorcycle markets.

This lack of expertise in commercial vehicles is seen as one obstacle to possible plans to push ahead with development of a BMW ute, although analysts argue a link-up with Toyota, which enjoys huge success in many markets with its Hilux, could open up new areas of growth.

BMWs success in the luxury SUV market, with models ranging from the X1 to the X6, could also provide it with opportunities to develop a ute boasting greater refinement and performance than that being pursued by Mercedes- Benz, albeit at a higher price to that of its rival.

A further possibility is BMWs i brand developing an electricpowered pick-up to challenge a similar vehicle confirmed by Elon Musk as part of Teslas Master Plan Part Two.

BMW officials have turned up the rhetoric to convince the boss to revisit the idea of a ute

Audi considers Amarok

The Big Three Germans could go head-to-head in the ute market, with Audi believed to be looking at using the Volkswagen Amarok as the basis for a rebodied roughand- tumble ute of its own.

Audi sees big potential for pick-ups in the South American market in particular.

Its likely Audi would do extensive dynamic upgrades and use a unique body to differentiate it from the VW.

However, an Audi ute is unlikely before 2019, when the second-generation Amarok is due.