Indications by CEO Norbert Reithofer recently seemed to indicate that BMW was ready to begin phasing out V8 engines from nearly every aspect of production. The first to be cut will most surely be the V8 diesel, but even BMW’s venerated “M” performance sub-section may have to look towards smaller engines and turbochargers in the future.
While being interviewed, Reithofer said BMW would focus on its six-cylinder engines as it looks to improve emissions and fuel consumption levels in response to the tightening of regulations over the next decade in both the U.S. and Europe. BMW has also been forced to cut production of its large displacement engines in response to sales slowing. Despite the luxury segment usually remaining impervious to environmental concerns and fuel costs, BMW hasn’t produced its V8 engines at full capacity for the past year and demand is expected to fall further. To satisfy current demand, BMW says V8 engines could be produced with a one-shift operation running just four days a week. Conversely, the carmaker is struggling to meet demand for its four-cylinder engines and is even considering phasing out production of its six-cylinder engines in favor of a four-cyliner at its main Munich plant as well. This would allow BMW to build up to 500,000 four-cylinder engines a year. A study by Price Waterhouse-Coopers expects V8 production in the US to plunge 45 per cent by the end of 2009 and be replaced by V6 engines that offer similar power but better economy.
The decline of the V8 has even prompted BMW to launch a worldwide sales contest to motivate dealers to push sales of its flagship 7 Series sedan, which uses the company’s new twin-turbocharged V8. Future M cars will likely be the recipient of newly engineered engines such as BMW’s widely acclaimed 300hp twin-turbo 3.0L six-cylinder. While many M purists, and come think of it, Mustang purists, and AMG purists for that matter, may throw a fit at the idea of a turbocharged M3 or M5, the economics and legislation currently in place make widespread use of inefficient V8’s not only impractical, but untenable. Especially with equivalent turbocharged and smaller displacement engines available as replacements.