Herr Dr. Nitschke, what were your last assignments before M GmbH?
FN: I started at BMW developing engines, then moved on to head worldwide testing. After that, I led product development at Mini. My babies are the current [Mini] convertible, coupe, roadster, and Countryman.
Do you see strong parallels between Mini and M?
In both instances, the engineers are “burning” for their brand and try to give their utmost. Maximum performance was less of a consideration at Mini, of course.
Are there any taboos left at M? In the past, for example, you wouldn’t touch turbocharging.
Turbos were never a taboo; that was always a question of the best option. Back then, the naturally aspirated engine was the best option. But today you can have much more efficient engines with the turbo, and we will continue to follow this approach. We always choose the best technology.
Would supercharging be such a technology?
It would have been in the past, but now we have turbo power just above idle—the turbo clearly is the better solution.
We are in a market here (the U.S.) where some customers still demand manual transmissions. Why don’t you offer more of them in other markets as well, such as your German home market?
That is a curious situation. America is an automatic-transmission market. But sporty drivers always chose a manual over the automatic transmissions, which used to be inefficient and have just three or four gears. But technology has moved forward—personally, I am actually quicker with an automatic than with a manual. Our European customers have understood that. But in the U.S., there is a small but very stable following of customers who simply insist on the manual. And that is not always easy for us: Our new M5 and M6 have so much power that a mismatched shift can easily destroy the transmission. It’s not easy. Therefore, for the first time, we have advanced our software to cut spikes and protect the transmission electronically.
Would these manuals also be reliable in markets such as Germany, where road speeds are often quite high?
Absolutely, we don’t make any difference here. These transmissions will take hours of driving at the limit.
You have launched the M Performance line with diesels in Europe. [Only M Performance power packs have been confirmed for the U.S.] Will there also be gasoline-powered models, like the M135i concept?
Absolutely. And the real car will be virtually identical to the concept. It will be powered by the N55 engine, and you will be able to buy it with a manual or automatic transmission. We will also offer optional all-wheel drive. But there won’t be such a hatchback model in the U.S.
Will you have an M Performance 7-series to compete with the Audi S8 and the Mercedes S-class AMG?
We are considering it.
What about diesel-powered M Performance cars in the U.S.?
We have the technology to meet the U.S. emissions standards, and if the market demands, then the M550d would be an option for the U.S. But at the moment, according to our market research, the numbers wouldn’t be sufficient.
Is the recently introduced tri-turbo technology reserved for M GmbH vehicles?
No, not entirely. Like this, yes—but other variations are possible for regular BMW models.
Is it conceivable that you would offer M versions of the new i3 and i8 models?
Not really. They are like different poles of the brand. The i brand offers the sportiest gas-saving cars, while M GmbH offers the most-efficient sporting cars.
What about lightweight technology?
That is a huge topic for us. With the new M5, we are only 40 kilos heavier than the top 5-series, not 100 kilos like before. Despite specific brakes, powertrain, and stiffening, we have compensated for much of the extra weight.
Would you like to create a mid-engined supercar?
I don’t know a head of M GmbH that wouldn’t like to do such a project. We have the technology and the know-how. We have the entire competence to build a supercar, whether mid/rear engined or not. Take our carbon-fiber knowledge, where we are world leaders. But we don’t have a final “go.”