Shareholder meetings are rarely occasion to trump future product offerings, but BMW’s Norbert Reithofer did just that. This morning, the CEO announced a hybrid 5 Series will launch in 2011, while a hybrid 3 Series model is also under development.
“As early as next year, the new 5 Series will also be available as a full hybrid,” Reithofer said. “We are anticipating the hybridization of further models, such as the 3 Series.”
BMW previewed the hybrid 5 Series with the ActiveHybrid 5 Series concept car shown earlier this year at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show. When the car launches, it will be BMW’s third hybrid electric offering, but only the second vehicle capable of driving solely on electric power. The ActiveHybrid X6 shares this capability, but the ActiveHybrid 7 Series does not.
The ActiveHybrid 5 will, however, be BMW’s first hybrid to utilize its storied inline-six-cylinder engine. The car will likely utilize BMW’s new single-turbo 3.0-liter I-6, paired with a 40-kW (54 horsepower) electric motor. According to BMW, the configuration boosts fuel economy by approximately ten percent.
Reithofer’s mention of a 3 Series hybrid is news, but we’re not too surprised to hear it. We have heard the automaker was eying four-cylinder 3 Series models for the U.S. to improve fuel economy, but a hybrid could possibly allow the 3 Series to maintain the premium aura it’s developed over the past few decades.
Adding hybrid models obviously has its benefits from fuel economy and emissions perspectives, but BMW sees another reason to go green: customers apparently want hybrids. The CEO pointed to Japan as one example of a hybrid-crazy market.
“The public perceives hybrid as a sign of eco-friendliness, despite the fact that diesel engines are often much more efficient,” Reithofer noted. “Sales of hybrid vehicles in Japan have skyrocketed. If you don’t have a hybrid in your portfolio, soon you might not be selling any cars in Japan at all.”
The CEO hints at the possibility of additional BMW models receiving the ActiveHybrid touch in the near future. We wouldn’t be too surprised to see the ActiveHybrid X6 spawn an ActiveHybrid X5, or the 3 Series hybrid’s powertrain wind up in the likes of a 1 Series. Do you think this is a good direction for the “ultimate driving machine?” If so, which Bimmer should be next to be hybridized? Sound off in the comments section below.