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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

BMW mulling over adding 4 cylinder diesels for US Market

MUNICH — While VW-Audi has shown its U.S. interest with a brand-new plant going up in Tennessee, and Mercedes has the upper ground on all German premiums with its clear diesel initiative in North America, BMW North America's bold statement has not yet come. The company could use a big, mind-grabbing statement to bolster its profit base, and the smaller 1 Series introduction may not have the impact it is looking for in the U.S. market. Enter the idea of a four-cylinder engine for the 3 Series.

In part to counter Mercedes' recent decision to bring four-cylinder diesel engines into the North American lineup during 2010, BMW is believed to be close to committing to a four-cylinder gasoline engine strategy for the latest 3 Series (and certainly the 1 Series) in the U.S. and Canada.

In Europe, the 167-horsepower 320i is a healthy volume seller, as is the 120i, and BMW project director Oliver Friedmann tells Inside Line that such an addition to the company's North American offerings "would have a desirable effect on many fronts."

The direct-injection four-cylinder gas BMWs are, by many accounts, the best models sold by the company. And the fuel consumption numbers speak volumes.

Regarding the chance of bringing over also the company's outstanding 123d or 320d four-cylinder turbo-diesels, Friedmann and others say that North America isn't quite ready yet for four-cylinder diesel Bimmers, particularly not the 3 Series customer.

What this means to you: This is brilliant news for younger premium drivers in North America.— Matt Davis, Correspondent