The pandemic forced BMW to produce the XM instead to cater to the growing demand for SUVs.
There wasn't any proper BMW M1 successor, but the Bavarian automaker actually had one in the pipeline - the i16. However, BMW decided to can the supercar project in favor of the XM hybrid SUV, and BMW design boss Domagoj Dukec gave us a glimpse of what the i16 would have looked like through an Instagram post.
For a short recap, the BMW i16 project evolved from the Vision M NEXT concept the automaker presented in 2019. The supercar featured retro-futurism styling inspired by the M1. It had the i8's carbon composite chassis, capable of accommodating either a plug-in hybrid four-cylinder powertrain or the B58 - the latter is found in the BMW 3 Series and Toyota Supra.
Design-wise, the i16's silhouette is reminiscent of its predecessor, the i8. The front fascia sports massive kidney grilles and Z4-esque headlights. Meanwhile, the slim rear taillights resemble the ones on the BMW iX. The vehicle is also accentuated by red accents similar to the BMW XM Label.
So if the supercar looked promising, why did BMW cancel the project for the XM? According to the design chief, the disruptions of the pandemic made it difficult for the brand to push through. Low-slung halo cars don't really sell well (remember the Lexus LFA?). The BMW XM, meanwhile, is expected to be more popular as it can cater to the growing demand for luxury SUVs.
That market shift urged automakers to produce their first SUVs, like Aston Martin with the DBX. Moreover, the sales of ultra-luxury brands were seemingly unaffected by the global health crisis, so the XM was a more sensible choice.
With this change in market preference, the i16 would only become a niche product, making it a money pit post-pandemic.
Obviously, the i16 would have been a more fitting successor to the M1, but unforeseen events deprived us from a proper flagship supercar from BMW. But Dukec remains optimistic about the future of the brand, saying, "We'll never stop dreaming and exploring new possibilities." For now, we have to make do with the XM, which is the most powerful M model ever made.