And it could pay off big time.
BMW has done things its own way for so long that it's hardly a surprise when the automaker goes against the grain. In the mid 80s, the first BMW M5 dared to go where no four-door family sedan had before. Decades after, the BMW X6 pioneered the coupe-like SUV body style that has become highly desirable. In the early 2000s, the E65 7 Series introduced iDrive, which although insanely complex at that point in time, changed the way we interacted with our vehicles.
BMW has now extended this same atypical approach to electrification. Whereas developing dedicated EV platforms has become an industry norm, the German marque has taken a different route: it wants to continue producing flexible platforms that can accommodate gas, hybrid, or full-electric powertrains.
A case in point is the new BMW iX3, the fully electric version of the popular X3 that is sadly not going to be sold in North America. Although the iX3 has a new rear sub-frame, it shares much of its architecture with the regular X3. By electrifying a mainstream model, BMW is taking a different approach than it did with the i3, which had its own bespoke platform - but this boxed it into only being able to accommodate a certain type of powertrain.
According to a Top Gear report, Wieland Bruch from BMW said that customer needs differ widely from one market to the next. "That's why we readjusted our strategy," he said. "We are very convinced that for the next many years, flexibility is the key to success, meaning that every customer should have the choice about the drivetrain they wish to get."
This is certainly the case with the BMW X3 range, which is now offered in gas, hybrid, and EV form around the globe.
"When in many years there is a development visible where the whole world now follows the electrification movement, then we can talk about a solitary electric platform again," continued Bruch.
The upcoming BMW i4 will be built on the brand's Cluster Architecture (CLAR) platform, which is flexible enough to be shared with everything from the X4 to the high-end 7 Series flagship sedan. By contrast, other manufacturers have forged ahead with EV-only architectures, such as Hyundai with its Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP).
Time will tell whether BMW's unique approach pays off.