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BMW 1-series to compete with Camry & Accord

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BMW to pit upcoming 1 Series against Accord, Camry with mid-$20s price

By DIANA T. KURYLKO | Automotive News

BMW's new 1 Series will be priced in the mid-$20,000 range when it goes on sale in 2005, a price point that will put it in the heart of the volume-sedan segment dominated by the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

Tom Purves, CEO of BMW of North America LLC, said the U.S. market will get only one body style of the 1 Series - not a hatchback - and two engines, most likely six cylinder.

Potential buyers include owners of the Volkswagen Jetta and similar cars "who aspire to own a BMW," he said at the Frankfurt auto show last week.

"We aren't getting completely carried away saying it will be a home run success," Purves said. "The issue is it needs to perform like a BMW, and it needs to perform like a BMW Americans will like. There is a reason we don't sell four-cylinder BMWs in America."

CEO Helmut Panke said the 1 Series will be nearly identical in size to the 2002 - the predecessor to the 3 Series.

"It will pick up where the 2002 started 35 years ago," he said. "It won't be cheap and will be the only rear-drive car of its size."

The new vehicle will be built alongside the 3 Series, and will share up to 40 percent of its larger sibling's components, executives said.

The two vehicles will not share a platform, but 80 percent of the production processes will be the same. That will enable production in the same assembly plants - four in Germany and one in South Africa, said Burkhard Goeschel, BMW board member for r&d and purchasing.

"The 1 and the 3 Series have a different length, wheelbase, width and A-pillar position, but they can be produced in the same five factories," he said. "We are totally flexible in being able to change volume of all 1- and 3-Series derivatives."

The move to common processes began with the 5 Series and 6 Series. Those vehicles have about 60 percent commonality in manufacturing processes and share about 30 percent in components on a parts basis - more in value added because the engines and gearboxes are common, Goeschel said.

BMW is designing the 1- and 3-series model ranges to accommodate up to 10 body styles, said Goeschel. He would not specify which body styles each range will get, but the large number of derivatives suggests several body styles of the 1-series are possible.

The current 3 Series comes as a sedan, coupe, convertible, hatchback and station wagon.

The ability to build so many vehicles on one assembly line exceeds even what the most flexible Japanese makers such as Honda can do, Goeschel said.

"The main goal is to have differentiation by keeping commonality in processes," Goeschel said.

There is some commonality of the body in white, but the two interiors are different. Tooling will cost less, development costs are lower and the time-to-market is faster because of this side-by-side development, said Goeschel.

The 1 Series goes into production at the end of 2004 and the 3 Series replacement a year later.

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