Can the Borgward Brand Make A Comeback?
Maybe, but only if “Accessible Premium” is more than a slogan.
Borgward is one of many forgotten brands, initially ambitious and eventually doomed, from the same mold as Studebaker, Humber, or Matra. Started in 1919, the German automaker, Borgward, shuttered in the summer of 1961 after an era of creating affordable, "accessible premium" cars. Now businessman Karlheinz L. Knoss and Christian Borgward, the company's namesake and grandson of its founder, have revived the automaker.
The Borgward cars we recently spent time with weren't half bad. Granted they were top-of-the-line models boasting leather, fancy connectivity, and big, shiny wheels, but still. Materials felt good, fit-and-finish left little to be desired, the infotainment system with a 12.3-inch touchscreen looked great, and overall design, while generic, was inoffensive. Borgward could market its new Porsche Macan lookalike as Beijing Duck, and it probably would not make much difference. What counts is the product, and we've seen worse.
What will affect Borgward's resurrection most is pricing. Although the European debut of Borgward is still almost three years away, CEO Ulrich Walker already told us, "We won't be undersold in the segments we compete in." The BMW X5-size Borgward BX7 (pictured) will likely start at about $45,000, the BMW X3-size BX5 will go for about $33,000, and the most basic BX3 should start under $20,000. All three vehicles will share the same architecture, the same seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and the same four-cylinder engines, displacing either 1.8 or 2.0 liters, producing up to 225 hp. A plug-in hybrid model, which will have a 13.2-kWh motor driving its rear wheels, should produce 400 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque, have a zero-emission range of 35 miles, and return around 125 mpg-e. Then comes the fully electric BX Zero that Borgward will build in China, predominantly for China.
Borgward is a no-name player with no infrastructure and no status, but if the BX lineup is well received the company's target of 500,000 units per year becomes a credible target. Adds Ulrich Walker: "Once the brand is established, we can think about the next step. How would you for instance like a modern reincarnation of the Borgward Isabella coupe (above), stylish and exceptionally well made, available in limited quantities yet relatively affordable?"