Recap: BMW Group at NAIAS 2018

The blustery North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) on the shores of the Detroit River typically gives most of its headlines to the Big Three, but this year the show brought news from across the globe. BMW rolled up with new arrivals from the BMW, MINI, and Motorrad brands, as well as another new model from its 40-vehicle offensive, and competitors were out in force.

The BMW Group press conference on January 15 featured a menagerie of vehicles, reflective of a company planning an onslaught of new cars and SAVs. The new X3, an SAV already on dealer lots but new to the US auto show circuit, made a public showing, and the production version of the BMW Motorrad K1600 Grand America arrived with a new name and new attitude.

BMW premiered an array of X2 crossovers this year in Detroit.

A focus on BMW Individual and individuality in general was strong, particularly on the world-premiere F56 MINI LCIs. The MINIs featured a host of updates including Union Jack taillights, and optional 3D-printed accessories that can add all kinds of personalized labels to your MINI. Don’t blame the Germans or the Brits for the Union Jack though—the US, we’re told, is by far the largest consumer of MINI’s British-themed options. There was also a BMW Individual 530e and M5, and an incredible Marina Blue M760i.

The BMW i8 Coupé LCI also saw a world premiere at NAIAS.

There were two BMW world premiere vehicles, as well: the facelifted i8, and the first-ever BMW X2 crossover.

The i8 Coupé reflects the same changes as the stunning i8 Roadster. From the exterior, the car has lost its blue accents (replaced with a soft grey), and benefits from more power (up 12hp to 369 between the electric motors and gasoline 3-cylinder) and more range (18 more mi) in pure electric mode. It projects, BMW says, “an aura of dynamism.” Take from that what you will.

The X2 was the big news in Detroit, being an all-new “Sports Activity Vehicle” (so, a crossover) based on the X1 and featuring the same platform and (in the US) xDrive all-wheel-drive as the X1. Presumably will also feature a slightly higher MSRP to account for its added “flair.” A notable discussion point was the Roundel on the C-pillar, which, as BMW NA President and CEO Bernhard Kuhnt noted during the press conference, was a callback to the iconic BMW 3.0 Coupe of the 1970s.

Quietly absent were the BMW X7 and much-rumored M2 CS, although the auto show season is very much in force and we’re hoping to get a glimpse of these in the near future. The former has already been seen in pre-production form, so we’re expecting a production version of the luxury SUV soon.

In contrast to other shows, BMW’s main messaging in Detroit was focused on electrification and its commitment to the United States. BMW’s certainly putting its full economic and social support behind the North American market, as it will continue to invest billions in Plant Spartanburg (the largest single plant in BMW’s global network) and has created a new program called “MSTEP” to train US military veterans to work as techs in BMW’s dealer network. There wasn’t much talk about semi-autonomous cars at NAIAS from BMW this year, but I imagine the new X7 and upcoming 8 series will revive that discussion.

Amongst the other manufacturers, the big news was muscle cars and full-size trucks, with Ford showing the 2019 Mustang Bullitt (as well as the long-lost original fastback from the film of the same name), and Chevrolet and RAM showed updates to their truck ranges. Mercedes also pulled out all the stops for the new G wagon, which features minimal exterior changes, but a substantially new platform and interior.

It may have been a cold and quiet set of press days in Detroit, but with so many new models coming from BMW, it’s sure to be the ramp-up to an exciting year. We’re looking forward to exciting new updates in Geneva and New York as 2018 unfolds.

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